After the recession, the biggest fad in business journalism lately has been sustainability, or the ability of business to better manage its raw material consumption, carbon footprint and so on. It's a broad category and its popularity with business reporters has led many corporate communicators to brand every initiative they have as "sustainable."
One of the first-movers in the space was the LEED standards for green buildings, which cover efficiency in water and energy use.
Mireya Navarro today in The New York Times has an interesting article on how well buildings meeting the LEED standards do in delivering on the promises of reduced environmental impact and finds them lacking. The article is pegged to an admirable initiative by the Green Building Council, which administers the LEED standards, to collect data from LEED buildings and determine how well they perform in practice.
The article reports that LEED has been around since 1998, however, and readers are left to wonder why the Green Building Council is just getting to testing and measurement now.
Still, Navarro's article shows that journalism can still cast a critical eye on a popular subject without being a hit piece. The Green Building Council should also get credit for sharing specific information about its own failings while at the same time charting a path to become more effective. That's textbook public relations but too many companies would rather avoid the tough issues until gadflies and hostile media are at the front door.
While this initial article may be negative, it will create goodwill for those involved that will help their reputations in the long term.