Reading today's New York Times on my subway commute in this morning (I got a seat!), I paused when I came across the term "big greens" an article titled, "At 40, Earth Day is Now Big Business":
Yet the eagerness of corporations to sign up for Earth Day also reflects the environmental movement’s increased tolerance toward corporate America: Many “big greens,” as leading environmental advocacy organizations are known, now accept that they must take money from corporations or at the least become partners with them if they are to make real inroads in changing social behavior.
Begrudgingly, it seems we'll have to live with this label as a generalization to categorize the NRDC and other recognizable environmental advocacy groups that have become political mainstays with relatively sizable staffs and budgets. (No good deed goes unpunished, right?) But I'm not willing to settle on just being called 'big', especially given all the negative connotations it brings from industries that have fallen out of favor in recent times: big-Oil, big-Pharma, big-Auto, big-Banking, etc.
In setting apart the NRDC from being just another "big green", I think a better term is in order: "Sound" (adj.). We are led by sound science in all of our endeavors and positions taken. We stand up for-, and are backed by-, sound and truthful information in protecting our natural resources, health, and well-being for now and future generations. As a non-profit, we don't compromise our principles for proprietary gain, and thus confidently remain sound in our actions despite the fact we both sue against-, and actively engage with- a wide variety of large and profitable businesses and industries to keep their behavior in check.
I started thinking about having an alternative description to 'big' after reading a recent posting by Umair Haque, a regular influential blogger on the Harvard Business Review. In Umair's post, titled "Forget Your Elevator Pitch — What's Your Dumbwaiter Pitch?", he encourages his readers to 'go deep' to find a single word that captures the essence of one's organization or business. As he describes it:
So you've got an elevator pitch — a short, pithy description of why your business is special, exciting, and unique. Yawn. Today, elevator pitches are the economic equivalent of speeches at a beauty pageant: predictable, often vapid, always bland.
Here's a suggestion. Try a Dumbwaiter Pitch instead. It's an exercise I often do with startups, giant corporations, social entrepreneurs, and investors. Its goal? To strip an organization right down to its bones, and see how compelling it really is.
I think being 'sound' is a pretty compelling description for NRDC's ongoing role in the environmental movement. We're changing how we live and do business; always aiming for continual improvement for our environment, our health and our well-being. In the end, I suppose I can live with being labeled 'big' knowing that NRDC will continue to be guided by principles rooted in sound science and truth.
What word would you use to describe NRDC?