What is Green Marketing?


Would it be fair to say that most people buy with some degree of morality in mind, taking social or environmental issues into consideration as they select from a variety of options on offer? Whether driven by a desire to save energy with more efficient products or looking for coffee that’s grown more sustainably, consumers can be swayed by green marketing schemes that set one product apart from the other based on environmental benefits.

Consider this: in a study by Accenture that polled people from Europe, Asia, and North America, nearly nine out of 10 consumers were willing to pay more for green products (those that reduced greenhouse gas emissions in particular). While the percentage of people willing to pay a premium for eco-friendly products will go up and down as times change (see the Green Gauge Report put out annually by GfK Custom Research for yearly green buying stats) – environmental disasters increase awareness and interest in green products, for instance, while prosperous economic times often dull interest – in general, the market for green products and services is growing every year as people become more aware of the impact of their consumer choices.

That said, environmental marketing is a tricky business, especially given the relative skepticism most people have toward green branding claims. Greenwashing abounds in the world of eco-friendly products and services, and with so many companies failing to live up to their green business promises, consumers are understandably wary of dubious branding.

Definition of Green Marketing

Green marketing definitions can be a little confusing, since green marketing can refer to anything from greening product development to the actual advertising campaign itself. Going by alternative names such as sustainable marketing, environmental marketing, green advertising, eco marketing, organic marketing, all of which point to similar concepts though perhaps in a more specific fashion, green marketing is essentially a way to brand your marketing message in order to capture more of the market by appealing to people’s desire to choose products and services that are better for the environment.

There are many environmental issues impacted by the production of goods and rendering of services, and therefore there are also many ways a company can market their eco-friendly offerings. Green marketing can appeal to a wide variety of these issues: an item can save water, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, cut toxic pollution, clean indoor air, and/or be easily recyclable. When put side by side with the competition, the more environmental marketing claims your product or service can make, the more likely it is the consumer will select it, provided the price point isn’t too much higher than the alternative.

What Makes Marketing Green?

But you can’t really market your business or your product as green without managing how your company functions with respect to the environment. Green marketing can take many forms. For instance, you may market eco-friendly aspects such as:

  • Operational sustainability: Service companies and manufacturers can improve operational sustainability by reducing everyday energy and water consumption, minimizing pollution, using greener materials and processes, and properly managing waste.
  • Green products: Companies producing products can do many things to improve the green factor of their offerings, including choosing sustainable materials, designing products to save energy and water, and making products that are less toxic and more natural than competitors’ goods. Greener products will also be packaged in an eco-friendly manner and will be made to be easily recycled or composted.
  • Sustainable marketing: You’ll also want to ensure that the actual marketing systems you use are green, which is really distinct from your operational sustainability which focuses on manufacturing and production. For instance, when printing marketing materials, use 100% post-consumer recycled paper made without chlorine (called “processed chlorine free”) and printed using plant-based dyes (like soy inks). You could also investigate tools like green web hosting, carbon offsets for any marketing emissions you may cause, recycling any unused materials from billboards and signage, ecological packaging, and so on.
  • Environmental causes: Any organization can choose to promote environmental causes. Nonprofits and NGOs will engage in green marketing to get the word out about their activities, but for-profits can also suppose environmental causes by making donations and advertising for these environmental do-gooders as part of a green marketing campaign.

Targeting Green Consumers

Knowing your audience is certainly a necessity if you want to have an effective environmental marketing campaign. In general, there will be at least three levels of green consumers in any industry. Deep green consumers are serious about their choices and will be looking for hard proof of the eco-friendliness of your claims. This group requires verifiable proof that you’re providing products and services that will truly benefit the environment. The second group includes people genuinely interested in helping the planet, but not as current on the biggest environmental issues. This group may also be less willing to pay a premium for your green offerings. The third group includes people who are either apathetic or antagonistic toward green marketing efforts.

Regardless of your target market, an eco marketing campaign should have several important factors in order to ensure long-term sustainability in the green space:

  • Your green claims should be genuine and verifiable. Above all, be transparent and explicit about any environmental claims you make.
  • Informed consumers are loyal consumers, so educate your consumers about the benefits of your product or service for the environment.
  • Make it possible for your customers to give back to the environment by choosing your service or product.

How to Appeal to Green Consumers

Thankfully, organizations such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulate some of the more popular green marketing claims in order to provide some way for consumers to compare apples to apples when considering one product against another. The FTC exists to prevent greenwashing and will ensure that claims of environmental benefits are not overstated or misrepresented.

In addition to the FTC regulations, there are numerous third-party organizations and government bodies that serve to test and structure green marketing claims, including such things as the US National Organic Program, the Canadian EcoLogo certification program, and the certified Vegan standard.

Great Examples of Green Marketing Campaigns

To give you a sense for some good green marketing campaigns, here are three exceptional examples of how eco-friendly messages can draw customers and profitability to your company:

  • Method: With a whole line of cleaning and personal care products, Method’s straightforward yet clearly green message has been hugely successful in gaining ground in these mainstream markets.
  • US Green Building Council: This organization which invented the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building program for energy-efficient construction and renovations is now the leading standard for green buildings. They’ve effectively cornered the market as a green standard against which all buildings are now measured.
  • Toyota Prius: Their brilliant marketing campaign has brought them great acclaim and a huge boost in sales – they’re currently the leader in gas-electric hybrid vehicles. That said, their recent highway florascape ad campaign to celebrate their 2010 model – which will require daytime watering during drought season in California – while creative and beautiful is perhaps less eco-friendly than their vehicles.

Regardless of your company’s offerings, there are ways you can use green marketing to increase your profitability and enjoy greater business success if you’re willing to truly address environmental issues.

This post was written by:

Maryruth Belsey Priebe

Maryruth has been seeking the keys to environmental justice - both at home and at work - for over a decade. Growing up adjacent to wild spaces, Maryruth developed a healthy respect (and whimsical appreciation) for things non-human, but her practical mind constantly draws her down to earth to ponder tangible solutions to complex eco-problems.

With interests that range from green living to green business, sustainable building designs to organic gardening practices, ecosystem restoration to environmental health, Maryruth has been exploring and writing about earth-matters for most of her life. Of special interest is the subject of ecopsychology and the role the natural world plays in the long-term health and well-being of humanity. You can learn more about Maryruth's work at www.JadeCreative.ca.


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Comments

  1. The “How to Appeal to Green Consumers” section should talk more about getting information about green products, companies and brands to the consumer. Consumer confusion over the new green jargon, proliferation of green certifications and lack of information at the product distribution points is the main barrier to break in marketing green products. Presenting all the green information about the product, company and brand at all distribution points provides the tipping point for green consumers. It also provides transparency and strengthens brand loyalty.

    Chris Glennon
    SmartSymbols Marketing Platform
    http://SmartSymbols.com
    http://Twitter.com/SmartSymbols

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