In business the bottom line is to make money. But many companies also care about saving the planet at the same time. A growing number of major corporations (albeit some dragged kicking and screaming by environmental activist groups) are now taking on green concerns and marketing their efforts.
A green marketing campaign spreads the word that you are making ecofriendly promises that you plan to keep. Drawing the public in with your green marketing campaign will help them understand the issues and how they apply to everybody, and hopefully they will join the movement.
“What we’re really talking about is sustainability and corporate social responsibility; being green is a subset of those concepts,” says Darrin C. Duber-Smith, president of Green Marketing Inc.
It is important for the solution to begin at all levels of the supply chain and work its way to the consumer. “Sustainability is best as a corporate commitment and it starts from the top mission statements and continues through the supply. Consumers are driving all this because they want to buy from companies whose beliefs are most like their own,” explains Duber-Smith.
Once your company does an audit to determine the effects it has on people and on the environment, you can determine where changes need to be made. It is important to understand what happens to products once they have been used. Stopping pollution, managing resource recovery, and making sure zero waste and zero emissions are going into the atmosphere are the goals of such an assessment.
After your company has taken responsibility at all levels, including the suppliers you choose to work with, you can then go to the public and explain the benefits. You can market directly to the personal concerns of your target market. For example, pointing out increases in energy costs, gas prices, food prices, and so on, is a way to show how the consequences directly affect everyone.
Incentives are another approach to green marketing. Wal-Mart has become a corporate leader in recent years in the initiatives category, starting with a ratings system that determines which suppliers they will do business with based on the types of packaging they use. Consumer incentives can also prove to be highly effective in both sales and in changing attitudes and breaking bad habits. Banks providing lower interest rates for homeowners who do energy retrofits or have high home energy ratings is one example. There are similar incentives offered for some car loans as well. Retail stores may put high Energy Star–rated products on sale or provide coupons for customers choosing green products. (Energy Star is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s program to promote energy efficiency.)
The key to successful green marketing is not to hit consumers over the head but to provide the tangible benefits of thinking environmentally. Habits are hard to break, but seeing actual tangible results (such as lower heating bills) can impact upon the target audience and prove effective.
Unfortunately, environmental issues have become increasingly complex as opportunists and megacorporations seek resources. Only now have environmental groups begun to gain momentum as the issues have reached near crisis levels. Their task, however, is more difficult than it was in the past. Once upon a time, cleaning up the environment meant stopping more visibly obvious offenders such as polluters whose noxious fumes filled the air or whose waste products were clearly killing fish in a river. Today the chain of activities from rain forests thousands of miles away to your dining room table is more complicated than meets the eye.