Seth Godin joins us for the kick-off episode of Season 5 to discuss his new book and project: "The Carbon Almanac: It's Not Too Late." As individuals, citizens and members of the retail community we all have an opportunity and, one could say, an obligation, to address the climate crisis. In a wide ranging conversation we learn what the Carbon Almanac movement is all about, how it came to be and what Seth hopes its impact will be.
Seth Godin joins us for the kick-off episode of Season 5 to discuss his new book and project: The Carbon Almanac: It's Not Too Late. For the few who may not know, Seth is an internet pioneer, best-selling author of 20 books, host of the Akimbo podcast and one of the world's most sought-out keynotes speakers. Most importantly Steve was also best man at Seth's wedding.
As individuals, citizens and members of the retail community we all have an opportunity and, one could say, an obligation, to address the climate crisis. In a wide ranging conversation we learn what the Carbon Almanac movement is all about, how it came to be and what Seth hopes its impact will be. We go beyond the myth of the "carbon footprint" to delve into the need for true systemic change and how that can be manifested. We also discuss the critical role for the retail industry in demonstrating sustainability leadership and talk about what brands like Patagonia are doing to make a difference.
As usual, we kick things off with a fast-paced look into the big retail news of the week, including the need for the industry to "buckle up Buttercup" in the face of growing headwinds, what to make of Kohl's being left at the alter and what Mark Triton's departure from Bed, Bath & Beyond means from the brand's future. Steve also predicts that some CEO's at digitally native vertical brands might want to update their resumes.
Steve's Relevant Forbes Articles
Is Kohl's New Strategy Merely A Slightly Better Version of Mediocre?
Here's Why Amazon Should Buy Kohl's--with One Big Caveat
Seth Godin is an Author, Entrepreneur and Most of All, A teacher
Seth is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, and speaker. In addition to launching one of the most popular blogs in the world, he has written 20 best-selling books, including The Dip, Linchpin, Purple Cow, Tribes, and What To Do When It's Your Turn (And It's Always Your Turn). His book, This is Marketing, was an instant bestseller in countries around the world. The latest book is The Practice, and creatives everywhere have made it a bestseller.
Though renowned for his writing and speaking, Seth also founded two companies, Squidoo and Yoyodyne (acquired by Yahoo!).
By focusing on everything from effective marketing and leadership, to the spread of ideas and changing everything, Seth has been able to motivate and inspire countless people around the world.
In 2013, Seth was one of just three professionals inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame. In an astonishing turn of events, in May 2018, he was inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame as well. He might be the only person in both.
Steve Dennis is an advisor, keynote speaker and author on strategic growth and business innovation. You can learn more about Steve on his website. The expanded and revised edition of his bestselling book Remarkable Retail: How To Win & Keep Customers in the Age of Disruption is now available at Amazon or just about anywhere else books are sold. Steve regularly shares his insights in his role as a Forbes senior contributor and on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can also check out his speaker "sizzle" reel here.
Michael LeBlanc is the Founder & President of M.E. LeBlanc & Company Inc and a Senior Advisor to Retail Council of Canada as part of his advisory and consulting practice. He brings 25+ years of brand/retail/marketing & eCommerce leadership experience, and has been on the front lines of retail industry change for his entire career. Michael is the producer and host of a network of leading podcasts including Canada’s top retail industry podcast, The Voice of Retail, plus Global E-Commerce Tech Talks , The Food Professor with Dr. Sylvain Charlebois and now in its second season, Conversations with CommerceNext! You can learn more about Michael here or on LinkedIn.
Be sure and check out Michael's latest venture for fun and influencer riches - Last Request Barbecue, his YouTube BBQ cooking channel!
Michael LeBlanc 00:06
Welcome to Remarkable Retail podcast Season 5, presented by MarketDial, Episode1. I'm Michael LeBlanc.
Steve Dennis 00:13
And I'm still Steve Dennis.
Michael LeBlanc 00:15
Well, still, Steve, I've given away a bit of the lead already exciting news. We've partnered with a great organization and a great group of folks MarketDial. To prese-, there we go, Season 5 sound effects, to present Season 5.
Steve Dennis 00:30
Yeah, we've, you know, we have actually been very careful, very cautious about partnering with anybody we've, we've talked to quite a few people over the last year or so. And along came MarketDial. And so far in our, you know, people have to stay tuned for some of the other exciting things we've got down the road, but, but yeah, excited to, to work with them and excited to bring some other interesting opportunities later in the season.
Michael LeBlanc 00:58
Yeah, and we'll be talking a little bit about what they do and, and who they are. But check them out. We'll be talking about them, as I said, later in the season. Now, a great episode coming up, we've got we kick off with Panache, we've got Seth Godin back on the mic, and he's going to be talking about and we'll be talking with him about "The Carbon Almanac", his latest book, probably in one very important way, one of the most important episodes of our show, I mean, we're talking about one of the most important if not the most important issues of our lives, which is the climate and how it connects to everything and what we, we do bring it down to what retailers can what role retailers can play, which is actually quite important. But it's a very good, very insightful episode. So, folks can really look forward to that. And you know, Se-, you know, Seth, he's been on the podcast before. So, it was a great discussion. Yeah.
Steve Dennis 01:49
Yeah, I've known Seth for more years than I care, care to mention. So, it's a number that begins with four and they are two places to it. So, but yeah, this is a little always good to hear sets perspective, a little bit different episode, -
Michael LeBlanc 02:03
Steve Dennis 2:04
For us in, in some respects, because we're taking on a much bigger picture issue. But, as you said, an incredibly important one, and what with Seth and his team, because it's really not a Seth book, per se, it's really this, this project, this movement that he started, so I think people will really enjoy it, learn a lot and hopefully be motivated to, to take action, whether it's within their company or their personal lives.
Michael LeBlanc 02:28
Well, and you and I've been off the mic for a, a while. So, there's been let's get to our, our, our usual format. We'll talked about the kind of the retail news. And of course, there's been a lot of news that's happened since our last episode. So, we don't want to kind of rehash history a little bit. But we did think about taking on some of the key things. And I guess, I wanted to start at the macro level. And then we'll get to kind of more the micro level, so to speak with actual some of the retail events. But at the macro level, how are you feeling about all the moving parts of the economy? What what's, what are you thinking about? And you've had time to think and, and digest as you, you know, listen, I guess we're, the hint is, we, we started our trailer with buckle up buttercup, things aren't, you know, there's some economic headwinds and things are going get more difficult. How are you thinking about that?
Steve Dennis 03:13
It's funny, because I've gotten a lot of a lot of feedback on the Buckle Up Buttercup thing some people are, huh. Other people are really, other folks think it's great. So, anyway, it's what we chose to do take it or leave it. But, but yeah, I think, I think part of the reason we've emphasized that is, I, you know, I'm getting pretty nervous, if you look at what we've learned, particularly across the last few weeks, just a couple of quick things I'll mention, you know, number one, we've got US consumer confidence and a 70-year low. While as many people have pointed out, consumers balance sheets, in most countries are, are, you know, gotten stronger during COVID, largely because of stimulus payments, and you know, not spending as much money. So, credit balances, consumer credit balances went down. People's cash reserves went up, you know, stock market, real estate has done well. So, consumer balance sheets are generally pretty strong. But we've seen a lot of evidence that they're starting to weaken that there was one report about Americans tapping into their savings, because of all the inflation.
Michael LeBlanc 04:21
I mean, it, it's interesting because I see that as, and we've been talking about this in, in different ways as kind of pent, not pent-up demand. But savings are there to be spent, so to speak at some point like I didn't spend it before, but I'm going to spend it later. So, I didn't necessarily correlate that with bad news. In other words, it felt like the quick take hotli-, headlines in the news was, you know, Americans tapping into their savings. Well, of course, that's what savings are for. You're going to tap in and buy stuff because, -
Steve Dennis 04:46
I mean, the good news, the good news is we're starting from a high-water point, right, so, -
Michael LeBlanc 04:51
So, it's not, I don't think there's this sort of impending immediate doom. But when you continue to see inflation, at very high rates, this is where we're recording this on Friday, this morning, US jobs report was, you know, very strong job growth, which you would think on the one hand, is great news, right? On the other hand, it points to continuing tightness in the labor market. And obviously, high labor costs will tend to push prices up. So, so, I think, it's, it's a scenario where even if inflation moderates a bit, it's likely to be with us for a significant period of time. And that's just got to put pressure on spending. And we're already just particularly in the last few weeks seeing many more signs of slowing retail demand. We've had Mehta for example, told their staff to prepare for fierce headwinds.
Steve Dennis 05:44
So, we've had a lot of retail leaders pointing to a lot of concerns about the demand calls, which I think we'll talk about in another context in a second, they revised their outlook downward. RH, which is, you know, one of our favorite brands to talk about one of the best performers in retail over the last several years, they took their forecasts down, saying that they believe the next several quarters, were going to be extremely challenging. In the Buy Now Pay Later space.
Steve Dennis 06:10
And on top of that, as we've, we've touched on a lot of these retailers that did so well, kind of got the COVID bump, so to speak. You know, there are a lot of the retailers that are now saying, you know, whether it's Peloton or Best Buy, or whatever, saying, oh, you know, actually, things are going to be pretty tough for a while because we pull forward all this demand, -
Steve Dennis 06:10
Klarna, one of the leaders there, they've been pointing to chall-, while their business has not been profitable at pointing to challenges, they foresee, they've raised money at a significantly lower valuation. So, there's just a lot of signs, I think of these inflationary pressures tending to tamp down demand.
Michael LeBlanc 06:49
Steve Dennis 06:49
So, so a lot of storm clouds, -
Michael LeBlanc 06:51
But (crossover talk), but don't you think the language is funny, it's going to be tough (inaudible). But of all the executives I talked to them were expecting this to happen, like we knew the party wasn't going last forever. As you said, a lot of sales were being (inaudible). So, I just find it interesting, the language people use, it's going to be tough quarters. well, it’s almost normal quarters, like, it's very expected, but the way it's messaging? I don't know, I find it confusing, because it, it leads to more an-, anxiety about the economy than I think it's necessary, -
Steve Dennis 07:15
Sure, sure. Well, I think, you know, one of the things we've touched on a bunch of times is it's always interesting, you know, when people whether, you know, particularly the context of, of earnings, right, it's like, well, you know, our earnings were, were down relative to expectations. Well, who set the expectations? In many cases, it wasn't, you know, the industry analyst it was it was the Wall Street analysts. And so, I think, you know, we have to be able to look at things on a, on an objective basis, on a relevant comparable basis.
Steve Dennis 07:41
But I guess my overall point is, I think that things are going to be more challenging for most retailers going forward. I think if you serve the affluent customer, you know, that's, that's, you know, inflationary pressures aren't as, aren't as significant there. But, you know, we continue to see, you know, it's really sort of, "A Tale of Two Cities, because, you know, on the one hand, we, we definitely see some of these very specific challenges already. We've got reports of, as we've touched on, I think, probably the last episode of last season, these inventories being very bloated. So, there's a lot of concerns about, about retailers working through all this inventory, they have you know, -
Michael LeBlanc 08:18
and more arriving on the dock, (crossover talk), -
Steve Dennis 08:20
Right, the supply chain, (crossover talk), still not sorted out, -
Michael LeBlanc 08:23
It's not sorted out and NRF, just even, you know, late breaking news today, they're putting out emails about the ports receiving record amounts over 2021 amounts of goods. So, that stuff is still coming in.
Steve Dennis 08:34
Yeah. And so that's, you know, that I mean, from a consumer standpoint, I think it's going to be good, because there's going to be a lot of, you know, promotional activity and trying to move through all this, this inventory, the impact from a profitability standpoint, of course, is, is going to be the real challenge. And hopefully, you know, it's not, it's not something that persists more than a couple of quarters. But anyway, I think, you know, the, the lesson is, you know, to be adaptable, to be agile, clearly, you got to really focus on operational execution, that's always important, but it's going to be even more important the second half of this year, and then strategically, again, it's always about, you know, how are you going to be so differentiated or more differentiated, so that you get more than your fair share of the business that is available, whether that's booming, or whether that's, you know, turns out to be quite contracted?
Michael LeBlanc 09:21
Interesting, all right. Well, let's get into some of the retail news and again, not to rehash history here, but there were some pretty important things that happened. Let's move on to the kind of there's a couple of stories that relate to the middle, so to speak, and in our vernacular, so the Kohl's deal seems to have fallen apart, which didn't. I mean, you we had talked about didn't really make a whole lot of sense. So, Kohl's, I guess is back on the market. Maybe they're in Amazon maybe back to your idea about maybe Amazon should just buy Kohl's, I don't know.
Steve Dennis 09:48
Well, here's, here's the thing I'll say about Kohl's one is, you know, to your point, it wasn't really clear strategically, why this partnership made a lot of sense. So, you know I'm in general, not in favor of acquisitions that don't have some sort of clear strategic synergy to use the del shade, (crossover talk) term.
Steve Dennis 10:08
So, you know, and then at the same time, the market conditions really turned unfavorable. So, I think that, you know, to the extent that the Franchise Group originally could get their head around, I think was $60 a share that number, you know, that price looked a lot less attractive, given what what's transpired in the market over the last few weeks to the points we talked about earlier. And I, I didn't get the sense that Kohl's really wanted to do the deal anyway.
Steve Dennis 10:35
So, here we are now, where Kohl's still has all sorts of struggles of being stuck in the boring middle, the, the near term, macro-economic factors look extremely challenging, they have a lot of inventory, presumably, they need to move through and compete with all the aggressive discounting that Walmart and Target and others have already started. So, this is going to be a pretty rough road for them, they have a decent balance sheet.
Steve Dennis 11:02
So, I don't think there's any, any real crisis, but I think, you know, number one, you know, how compelling is their turnaround strategy? And I would say, not very, so my question still comes back to, if they're going to operate on their own, what is the case for any kind of turnaround? I don't see it. So, as much as you know, I was semi facetious about the Amazon acquisition. And I, I think, for a bunch of reasons, it's not likely to happen. I do think, barring a miracle, you know, Kohl's needs to partner with somebody that can actually add a lot of value. And the value that needs to be added is more differentiated product, you know, greater logistics capabilities, and more frequency. You know, that's the other challenge with apparel retailers, you know, there's so much competition, and you know, the average customer goes there four times a year. And so how do you get more footsteps, and this is where Target and Walmart, you know, really win, because they have those daily essential kind of items that drive a lot of traffic, which helps support, you know, not as significant as in apparel business, but, but, you know, pretty good sized presence,
Michael LeBlanc 12:09
We should probably talk for a minute about Bed Bath & Beyond. Now, it's not new news, that there's leadership changes, but my question to you is, you know, because perhaps that leadership, you know, tried to turn around that ship during the pandemic, and supply chain challenges or whatever. But is, is there anyone who could turn that around? Or is it just the business model is just fundamentally flawed? Like, what, what are your thoughts around leadership changes as a as a solve for the problems that, that, that are happening or will happen at, at Bed Bath & Beyond?
Steve Dennis 12:42
I mean, I guess my simple answer is, I don't know. I mean, it's one of the things we're going to get into in next week's episode, are the, the challenges in in this kind of undifferentiated middle and how, how convenience has evolved over the last few years. And, you know, Bed Bath & Beyond, was one of these category killers that for a time, was able to take a lot of business away from both the mall-based stores, as well as the mom and pops, as well as you know, drugstores and other kinds of things.
Steve Dennis 13:11
But this idea that you're going to have a lot of stuff in big stores with lots of locations in a world where not only do you have much better physical retail competition, but you've got the internet, I mean it's a very, very challenging position, I think what Mark was trying to do in terms of upping the differentiation, you know, having more private brands, so, you know, reasons to go to Bed Bath & Beyond specifically, products to not be so readily shopped, you know, on Amazon and Walmart and other places. I think that was well intentioned, whether, you know, he did it too quickly, whether that was going to be enough to really make a difference given the way the world is today. He, you know, absolutely got hit by supply chain issues that made their execution very, very poor. So, I, I think he was pointed in the right direction. I think he got dealt, you know, bad luck, basically, by a lot of macro-economic factors that were, you know, pretty much his entire tenure there. But, you know, even without that, I'm still not sure it would have been enough to really make them a viable retailer.
Michael LeBlanc 14:24
I guess, let's close on this, there's been other leadership changes that other retailers, so I guess the, the overall, circling all the way back to the beginning of these macro challenges, there's a lot of changes happening and, and more demands being made. So, do you see this next period as, as one of a bit of turmoil in the retail industry in a different way?
Steve Dennis 14:42
Well, I think anytime you get the overall economy slowing down, you know, what's that thing that Warren Buffett said, when, "you only know who's been swimming naked when the tide goes out". So, you know, there's oftentimes where retailers do like you think about some of these retailers that got the COVID bump, like some of them di-, weren't necessarily truly remarkable retailers with unbelievable execution, right, they got handed a gift, whereas other retailers that were, you know, very strong retailers, very well managed, got hit very, very hard because the categories were disadvantaged.
Steve Dennis 15:15
So, I think as we enter into this broader challenge, it's going to lay bearer, where we're certain management teams are not doing what they need too. The other pieces. I think the patience with certain kinds of retailers is just going to run out because you know, if you look at, I am not making any predictions, but if you look at, you know, Bed Bath & Beyond, you look at Kohl's you look at JC Penney, right? These are brands that have been struggling for a long time. And I think some investors, whether it's activist investors, or, or the board of these companies are going to be like, okay, we've been at this a long time, and you haven't moved the dial. And I would say the same thing about in a different context about some of these digitally native brands like, okay, we're 12-13 years into this thing, -
Michael LeBlanc 16:00
Yeah, yeah, yeah,
Steve Dennis 16:00
When are we going to show some profitability? So,
Michael LeBlanc 16:02
Steve Dennis 16:03
I, I think we'll see a lot of leadership changes in the DNVBs over the next six months, and, and perhaps some of these kind of stalled turnarounds as well.
Michael LeBlanc 16:14
All right, well, lot's to talk about coming up in our season, of course, and we'll continue right through until the end of the year. But for now, let's get to our first interview of the new season, Seth Godin, talking about, "The carbon Almanac" Seth Godin, welcome to the Remarkable Retail podcast.
Seth Godin 16:33
Oh, it's such a delight to talk to you guys. Again, how are you doing?
Michael LeBlanc 16:36
I'm good, I should say, welcome back. This is your second time back on our podcast. So, the second time, we are graced with your, with your virtual presence. And of course, I'm here with the one and only Steve Dennis. Steve, how are you?
Steve Dennis 16:49
I'm doing all right, Michael.
Michael LeBlanc 16:50
now tha-, you know, when we typically when we have guests on, we do a bit of an introduction. But Seth, you do fall in that category of needs no introduction, but I think it, I think it is worthwhile to make sure that we connect that you and Steve know each other. So, how did you meet, how did you meet Mr. Dennis and how are you two guys connected?
Seth Godin 17:09
Steve and I were both hired on the same day to fill the same job. And we showed up at the office, -
Steve Dennis 17:17
a very high paying job, I might add, -
Seth Godin 17:19
A high paying job, we made $40 A week running the largest student run business in America. And it changed my life, and we were an extraordinary duo. We danced together for over a year, and he was best man at my wedding.
Steve Dennis 17:36
That was a few years ago, -
Michael LeBlanc 17:37
That was, that was at least at least a few years ago. And you guys have stayed in touch. And then that kind of brings us around to what we're here to talk about today, which is your latest venture the cal-, "The Carbon Almanac". So, Seth, let's just jump right in and tell us what is, "The Carbon Almanac" project all about?
Seth Godin 17:55
I think it's better to know. And I think you guys have been leaders in helping retailers know, not just to go by instinct. But we are living in a world where we make decisions every day, about what to buy, and who to vote for and what to talk about and the impacts that we make and the impacts that are made on us. And the climate is changing, it is changing dramatically, and it's going to happen faster. And unfortunately, we have been indoctrinated and manipulated into believing things that aren't true. And the idea of The Carbon Almanac was to assemble, I'm a volunteer. And so is everyone who worked on it, 1000s of people in more than 90 countries, and assemble a team of volunteers to use data that you can look up, but present it to people in a bite sized, understandable convenient way so that we can get smarter and make better decisions
Michael LeBlanc 18:47
And how did, so, it's basically sourcing the wisdom, you know, of everyone and then kind of force multiplier so to speak of everyone having a little contribution that takes that message forward and kind of drives for the truth. How did how did this all come about? Where did this idea originate from and what's the origin story?
Seth Godin 19:05
So, I wrote my first blog post about climate change 16 years ago, and it did not solve the problem. I don't know why, -
Steve Dennis 19:12
Michael LeBlanc 19:14
It solved many other problems, but this, it's a gnarly one, It’s a gnarly one for sure.
Seth Godin 19:18
And I felt powerless. And I was also mistaken about a lot of things that I believe but I felt powerless, and I wanted to get smart. And I thought other people did too. And I read a book called min-, "The Ministry for the Future", which I recommend to anyone who likes science fiction or is a living, breathing, human. Either category is fine. And I cried and I thought hard, and I realized I had to do something, but I thought maybe I could do it with leverage. And the idea of the Almanac is a model for what we think the solution is, which is the carbon footprint is a myth. plastic recycling is a fraud. Human individuals who are privileged and have resources, particularly in North America cannot single handedly reduce their way to solving this problem. The only solution is systemic change. And systemic change is caused by individuals working together.
Michael LeBlanc 20:13
You, you mentioned earlier, you that you were mistaken in some of your beliefs, is that was your thinking that individual contribution or, or, or talk more about that?
Seth Godin 20:24
So, you know, the, the people who are listening to this, understand in like marketing. And it's interesting that Ogilvy & Mather, one of the great ad agencies of all time invented the idea of the carbon footprint at the behest of British Petroleum 40 years ago. The reason British Petroleum wanted the carbon footprint idea to spread. And I think it's perhaps the most effective marketing campaign in history, certainly on the unsung list. They wanted to spread because if you feel guilty, and you feel like a hypocrite, you're not going to speak up. And it worked beyond anybody's dreams, -
Steve Dennis 20:58
Can you, and you know, and I want to get into what specifically people can do, what this, this movement is about. But this episode is going to come out actually, the day that, The Carbon Almanac book comes out in the United States at least, can you just kind of paint a picture for what people are going to find in the book itself. But also, there's quite a lot of other things your you've been doing, and your team have been doing around how to amplify the ideas in the book. So, you just give people a little bit of a picture for what they might expect and how they can get involved?
Seth Godin 21:29
Well, the first thing I would say is, it's really unlikely that a skeptic or somebody who wants to avoid this issue is going to buy this book. A friend of mine said to me that he'd read all my books, but he doesn't want to read this one. We don't expect those people will buy the book, we made the book so that the people who are on the bus will buy copies for the people who need to get one, that when we start handing them out like candy, which books are really good at, people will see, and they will learn. And so, you know, we've already become a number one bestseller in a few categories, because people are buying several to give out to others. But to go with it, we made a kid's book that's free online. We have 40 podcasts, we have a daily email list, we have a photo book that we did in conjunction with Getty, that shows people if a picture's worth 1000 words, there's almost a million words worth of ideas inside the photo book, also free all at the, thecarbonalmanac.org.
Seth Godin 22:30
And the magic of bookselling these days is that bookstores sell fewer than 20% of all the books that are purchased. And the people who buy books are a small group. So, when you put those two things together, the idea of harnessing the focus and energy of 2000 people in 90 countries, is how you start a movement. Not that we are starting the movement of climate, but that we are fueling it by making it easy for people to know what's going on.
Steve Dennis 23:00
And I don't want to get too bogged down in the details of this. But I, I just as I was, you know, thank you for getting a galley copy to me as I was going through it, I was just blown away by how much really incredible information is included, all the collaborators you had. Can you just give us a little bit of sense of how you how you pull this all together, because it's so, so impressive. And maybe there's some lessons for people in terms of other movements that they might want to get involved in and how to get how to get their ideas to spread. So, could you just talked briefly about that.
Michael LeBlanc 23:32
MarketDial is an easy-to-use testing platform and emboldens great decisions, leading to reliable, scalable results. With MarketDial, you can be confident in the outcome of your in-store pilot initiatives before rolling them out across your fleet. In a challenging retail climate of supply chain disruption, labor shortages and dynamic customer behavior. The need for reliable insights has never been greater. Validate your remarkable ideas with MarketDials in-store testing solution for proof it is in the testing, learn more at MarketDial dot com. That's marketdial.com.
Seth Godin 24:04
So, here's part of the magic of tech and again, back to bring this (inaudible) to retailers because retailers generally need to defend real estate, because your rent and the people in the building are a significant part of your fixed costs. But if you don't have real estate, and that's where retail is moving, the alacrity and the flexibility you have goes through the roof.
Seth Godin 24:27
So, on September 14, give or take, I woke up in the morning and decided to do this and by 10am, I had the Domains, by 11am I had begun to customize a discourse discussion board which opens our software that enables people to come together in community. And I invited four people who I knew to help me with this in the afternoon. The next morning, I invited a whole bunch of people to apply to be part of it. And by the next day, we had about 100 people in the discourse engaging with each other.
Seth Godin 25:00
By October, we were doing 1000s of posts back and forth per day. And by November, we were writing articles. We wrote a 97,000-word book, as a team, edited it and designed it all volunteers and finished it a day ahead of schedule on February 27th. I have read more than 50,000 of the posts online. Many of us have volunteered to do this full time, because it's important. But the lesson here, is you can organize people, if you are helping them go to where they want to go. But you cannot push people to do something they don't want to do.
Michael LeBlanc 25:40
It's been a long-standing issue, if I can call it that in, in understanding or taking action on the climate, what people say and, and what they do we, we continue to see, for example, even in our category, you know, there's, there's a fast fashion retailer, that is the number one downloaded app in America right now. And yet, when you talk to people, they're very concerned about the impacts of, of the climate. How do you how do you how do we start to square that circle? Or is this what this book is all about is, you know, what you, what you the actions you take, are important, even the small ones, but you're trying to get to something bigger, right? But even bigger than that even bigger than beyond that behavior? Yeah.
Seth Godin 26:19
Oh, for sure, you know, carbon footprint thinking is, don't buy so much stuff at Zara, that's a trap, it's not going to solve the problem. Human beings want convenience, and they want, what they want. What will change the system is human beings coming together to create the conditions where it's harder to do with Zara does and Zara will do something different.
Seth Godin 26:44
Because the magic of the market is it responds to conditions, such as fast fashion, for example, is responsible for 8%, between six and 8% of all of the change in our climate, all the carbon that is released, it's an astonishingly large number. And that didn't used to be true. Well, what enabled it to be true, things like container ships, things like cheap, inter ocean travel, and lots of corporate and retail decisions along the way, where every person who made a decision wasn't an evil James Bond villain, they were just doing what they thought would work.
Seth Godin 27:22
And the story I've been telling recently, there's a company that makes yoga mats called Gaiam. And they're almost certainly in-, well intentioned good people, they're in the yoga business for God's sake. And to go with your yoga mat, you need yoga blocks, yoga blocks are made out of foam, foam is made out of oil. It's really hard to imagine making yoga block out of much of anything else. But if you buy a set of these yoga blocks, they come shrink wrapped in plastic, and the plastic is belly banded in plastic. And the belly band, a thick plastic belly band around the shrink wrap plastic foam blocks is in a plastic bag.
Seth Godin 27:58
And I reached out to the CEO and I'm like, what's this about? You don't need to do this, it's already plastic. And he told me that if he didn't do that, the retailers wouldn't take the product, and neither would Amazon. And if I contacted the retailers, they would say, well, we have to do that because it's more convenient for our customers. And it's more convenient for our supply chain. If we didn't do that, we'd probably have to charge more, and we'd sell less, and then we go out of business. So, here we have a system, saying to someone, please don't buy yoga blocks isn't the answer. The answer is to create a different system where yoga blocks don't come wrapped in plastic. And that will happen when plastic is priced fairly. Because right now it's subsidized by all of us, as opposed to the actual price of plastic being built into the cost of the plastic.
Michael LeBlanc 28:46
Do you see a role for government? So, here we're sitting, we're recording this a bit earlier and or late in June, the Canadian government has just banned many types of single use plastics by the end of the year. Of course, there's a hue and cry, how am I ever going to serve soup, without it kind of thing? But is, is there a role for government? Or is that is the role more of the people that make up the government in your mind?
Seth Godin 29:08
Well, so you know, we’ve, we've given government this name with a capital G. But all government is when it's working properly is community action. And I don't think any of us want to live in a world where there isn't a civil society where the water that comes out of the tap may or may not be clean. Where there are no rules. We like the rules we have we only freak out when there are new ones. If we go back to 1967 when a car has no seatbelts and is running on unleaded gas. I think we're all glad that, that shift happened. And community action is sometimes called government.
Seth Godin 29:47
What we need to do is figure out how to price carbon fairly. The government is going to do that. They're not going to do it to enrich themselves. They're going to do it so that the people who aren't profligate usage of carbon would suffer and that's most of us. I don't think a private jet from here to London should cost $60,000, the fair price is $300,000. Because that's how much it's costing all of us. If we charge people the fair price and give the money that the people who want to do that or paying for it, give that money directly to everyone who isn't doing it, people will start making smarter decisions about what to buy.
Michael LeBlanc 30:26
You’re, you're effectively as I listened to it, talking about economic rents from an economic perspective, right, those things that are behind the cost of goods that are not reflected in the cost of goods, but are impacted somewhere, somehow, some way like you're flying the private jet to Europe example, right?
Seth Godin 30:45
Yeah, I mean, I live right near New York City. And for 100 years, beginning the 1800s. If you needed to urinate, you just peed in the river. And if you had effluent, you just dumped it in the river. And it took them a while to figure out it was killing all the oysters and then killing some of the people. And so, now you just don't pee in the river, it's not allowed. It's not that we say to people, please, please, please don't be in the river, pee in the river a little less. You just don't pee in the river. And what we have discovered is the rivers bigger than we thought. What we've discovered is that doing something in Texas, affects people in Pakistan, where the temperature yesterday was 126 degrees Fahrenheit, it turns out that 134 degrees Fahrenheit, a human being will die. At 134 degrees Fahrenheit, a human being outdoors for one hour, even in the shade will die. And what we are doing is taking one part of the world after another and making it inha-, and in-, uninhabitable. And the thing is, there's only one planet in the known universe where we can live.
Steve Dennis 31:46
So, (inaudible) there, you know, this whole issue of economic rents or externalities, you know, certainly well known, I mean, I remember studying that way back when, when we were in college together. Are there, are there good examples, are there models to follow of what has happened in other countries that perhaps we could look to?
Seth Godin 32:04
Well, you know, I think that the first model I would start with is Patagonia. Because if you're a brand, if you're a retailer, you're either going to be behind this issue, or you're going to be ahead of it. And what we can see is that merchants that choose to continue to be ahead of it seem to outperform because the kind of customer that responds to this is the kind of customer that you want, that if you want to be a store selling average stuff to average people, you're going to have to stay in the middle, and you're always going to be under price pressure.
Seth Godin 32:35
But if you're a store that organizes people, stands for people and creates a, a mindset, where you will benefit from these sorts of thoughtful exchanges about climate, you will come out ahead, Eileen Fisher, just did a partnership with us. And they're going to be distributing 1000s of copies of the almanac to their customers, because they understand at some level that they're humans, but also that the Eileen Fisher customer, the more that they know about this, the better it is for Eileen Fisher.
Steve Dennis 33:09
Well, I’m, I, I tend to agree with you, but, but just to be devil's advocate, or just, I guess, bring up a counterpoint, you know, when you think about eCommerce in particular, you know, there's a lot of wasted packaging, and so forth, in just you know, the shipping of all that product around. And as you may know, return rates tend to be like 30%. So, you have, you know, product going back and forth, you have stuff that ends up in landfills, you know. So, I think I think the environmental impact is pretty significant.
Steve Dennis 33:41
Amazon, not to pick on them, but I will sort of pick on them is, is about 40% of the eCommerce market. So, you know, there is a company that has the ability, arguably anyway to do some really different things. But you know, the customer seems to like the low prices, the customer seems to like the incredible convenience. So, ho-, h-, how do you break a logjam like that? Because I don't know that Amazon is suddenly going to take on this, you know, out-, outside of government regulation, or is going to take sort of the Patagonia or the Eileen Fisher route.
Seth Godin 34:16
So, you're absolutely correct, that we cannot as a culture, keep buying stuff and returning stuff by truck the way that we have been doing it. My point is that Amazon can't fix this problem. But if Amazon starts leading on this problem, they will be ready when carbon is priced correctly. So, for example, their investment in Rivian, the idea of shifting the way they do the trucks, their idea of having fulfillment centers closer, the idea of figuring out ways to bundle when people get stuff, none of this will solve the problem.
Seth Godin 34:51
Because the problem still comes down to there is a coal plant somewhere in the United States or China or Vietnam. That is powering something, that is using plastic to create more convenience for people that's going to end up in a landfill. Until we address that, we're going to have a really big problem. So, what I'm arguing here is, it's going to take systemic change, that only happens when human beings speak up, it is possible to run and get elected without mentioning climate in the United States, that should become impossible, that should be the first thing you have to talk about, in whatever jurisdiction you are in, that what we are seeing is mayors are getting the memo, and they are starting to take action. And yet, there are cities like Miami that are going to be underwater in 10 years that are pretending they're not going to be. And what I see as a citizen as a hu-, and a human is, it's because we're not talking about it. And this book isn't going to solve that problem all by itself. But it's a brick in the wall, it's one more thing to give you the confidence to talk about it.
Steve Dennis 36:00
Yeah, it strikes me, I mean, I certainly agree. It strikes me that human beings don't seem to be wired very well, to, to deal with these longer term issues, you know, things that aren't I mean, though, you can certainly make the argument as Michael was that we're starting to see pretty clearly a lot of the impacts of, of climate change, you know, right now, but, but this idea that, you know, Miami is going to be underwater in 10 years’ time, somehow or other that doesn't seem to create the sense of urgency that, that you think it might. So, this consumer psychology, I guess, as much as much as some of these sees other things. As Michael as we are recording this a little bit ahead of the of the release date of, of the book. But as you mentioned, you got a lot of stuff going on. What's, what's sort of next? I mean, obviously, the books already gaining traction, even before it's out, people are getting engaged with this with this movement. Where do you hope it will go next? What are there any other sort of iterations of this on the horizon?
Seth Godin 36:01
So, you know, me, Steve, and you know that it is difficult for me to not have my fingers in the pie when it's sitting right in front of me. My discipline in doing this project was it is a Wii project, and not a me project that the kids’ book, I had nothing to do with nothing, the game that they just published, I haven't even played, the idea is that this is not a Seth Godin project. This is a project by a whole bunch of people who are going to take this in a whole bunch of directions. And I know that my focus is how do I ensure that this thing gets to the right people who then begin to spread it. But the team's focus has been, you know, we've got people in India, people in Macau, people in the Czech Republic, the guy in the Netherlands, who led the Dutch translation majority came out. It's just unstoppable. And so what's next is, all of us are going to figure out what's next?
Steve Dennis 38:08
Well, it's really, it's really a fascinating effort, it's hard to think of a more important issue that the world is facing any other messages for, for retailers in terms of what they can be doing. Beyond looking at what Patagonia and some others have, have taken on as really a central part of their mission.
Seth Godin 38:27
I think that it's so tempting to greenwash, and I think it's going to come back to haunt you. I think that you know, when, when people see the Shell Oil Company says they're going to be carbon neutral, because they're going to put a solar panel on a refinery, people are going to remember that. Shell is never going to be carbon neutral, they're in the business of being carbon negative. That's what they do for a living.
Seth Godin 38:50
So, you as a retailer are in the convenience business. You are in the business of selling things to people who already have things just like the things you're selling them, no one goes clothes shopping naked, they already have clothes. So, inherent in what you do, is the fact that you are going to be making this problem worse. I get that. So, I don't think you should claim that you are completely green. I think that we need to avoid the carbon footprint trap. But then what retailers can do is they can organize, they can connect people. You have been arguing this ever since you started talking about Omni and before that a retailer that has the attention and connection of its customers will always outperform one whose motto is you can pick anyone and we're anyone. So, if you're going to stand for something. I think you can begin by organizing your people. If you organize them, a lot of good things will happen.
Steve Dennis 39:47
Well, I love that, and you know, thanks. Thanks for putting this out in the world and organizing and getting people moving in this direction. It's "The Carbon Almanac", people should go check it out but more than checking out the book or signing up for the emails or any other things, you know, they need to need to get into action. Any parting words of wisdom Seth, before we before we let you go?
Seth Godin 40:08
Our subtitle is it's not too late. You know, it would have been more honest to say it's not too late, but it almost is. But it's not too late. And, if you know, 10 people who need to read this, and I hope you'll share it with them.
Steve Dennis 40:24
All right. Well, we'll leave it there. Thanks very much again for joining us, Seth.
Seth Godin 40:29
What a pleasure. Be well, guys,
Michael LeBlanc 40:31
If you liked what you heard, please follow us on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform so you can catch up with all our great interviews, like our discussion with Target SVP, Nancy King on their innovative approach to harmonize retail, new episodes will show up each and every week. And be sure and tell your friends and colleagues in the retail industry, all about us.
Steve Dennis 40:49
And I'm Steve Dennis, author of the bestselling book, "Remarkable Retail: How to Win & Keep Customers in the Age of Digital Disruption". You can learn more about me, my consulting and keynote speaking at stevepdennis.com.
Michael LeBlanc 41:01
And I'm Michael LeBlanc, producer and co-host of the Conversations with CommerceNext podcast, The Voice of Retail podcast, keynote speaker and host of the all-new Last Request Barbecue cooking show on YouTube. You can learn even more about me on LinkedIn, or meleblanc.co.
Safe travels everyone.
people, retailers, retail, book, carbon, customer, bed bath, climate, buy, kohl, starting, idea, challenges, plastic, Seth, bit, business, Michael, almanac, amazon