Green Marketing: Why Eco-Friendly Priorities are a Promising Direction
Written By: Isabella McKay
Years of blinded consumerism have resulted in major damage to our Earth, resulting in many bleak events, such as melting glaciers, deforestation, and the ozone layer, to name a few. Specialists continue to urgently research new strategies to combat this catastrophic situation. While consumers are going to continue to consume, encouraging the consumption of products that do a little less damage to the environment is one solution worth exploring. This strategy is known as ‘green marketing
What we already know about climate change
Mayday, mayday! We are going into panic mode. This world has reached a climate emergency as greenhouse gases (GHG) continue to destroy the Earth’s Ozone layer. Consequently, our lives, economies, health, food security, and planet are at risk. Although there are existing solutions to our climate crisis, humanity continues to omit enormous amounts of pollution and GHGs. Due to the growing climate change problem, shoppers are putting eco-friendly consumerism at the forefront of their purchase decisions. Consequently, corporations have made green marketing a primary concern to supply to this growing conscientious market.
So, what is Green Marketing?
For clarification purposes, this term does not mean using the colour green to market your products. While a universal understanding of the concept is still developing, we have found a basic definition to go by. Green marketing refers to the transition from traditional marketing to marketing strategies concerned with preserving, protecting, and conserving the environment. In addition, green marketing seeks to minimize an organization’s impact or ‘footprint’ on the natural world. Green marketing also acknowledges the extent to which raw materials are utilized as a natural resource, as well as the limitations of the environment as an intended sink for waste and by-products. This modern marketing strategy intends to reduce environmental damage, rather than claiming to entirely eliminate damaging practices.
Where did Green Marketing come from?
With an emphasis on addressing the current climate crisis, marketing bodies across the world have felt a need to adapt their policies and company features to align with conscious consumerism. The movement towards conscious marketing has been pressured action from the government, NGOs, and consumers to move towards transparent and environmentally friendly product and service production, as well as supplying aligned delivery options. Environmental impact has been of concern since the early 1990s and the expectation for companies to ‘go green’ has grown exponentially. Essentially, a company’s fate lies in its ability to effectively implement nature-friendly goods. At the end of the day, it is not the market’s job to create customer preferences, but rather to satisfy the preferences that exist and continue to grow in importance. The millennial generation in particular has embraced green branding, which begs the question; ‘how important is Green Marketing today?’.
SmartestEnergy revealed in a recent independent study that four out of five young consumers were more likely to purchase from brands that have outwardly made environmental sustainability of great importance. Additionally, upwards of ninety percent of the study’s participants expressed a firm belief in the green-marketing movement. With this startling information available, the question still remains; “why haven’t we all gone green?”
Let’s take a look at some green marketing strategies, as well as some examples of this phenomenon in the real world.
How green marketing motivates change
Although there are countless reasons motivating the transition towards eco-friendly products and services, from a business perspective there are three obvious reasons why most companies choose to implement green marketing.
They are customer satisfaction, rivalry, and - you guessed it - profit. To keep up with customer attitudes, it is in a company’s best interest to adopt clean, eco-friendly, and energy-conscious marketing measures to enlarge its customer reach. Competitive pressure is an additional and equally important factor to consider. Assuming that a particular company’s competitors have embraced green marketing and secured a greater clientele as a result, it would be in the company’s best interest to adopt a similar stance. Lastly, the implementation of green marketing has the potential to bring a company additional revenue, whether it be through green policies and products or by being one of the initial companies to facilitate this movement. One company that has successfully based its entire ethos around environmental protection is Patagonia and has encouraged other companies to follow suit.
How Patagonia leads the way
Patagonia is an upmarket outdoor clothing and footwear brand known well in the green marketing space. Having successfully implemented various green marketing strategies over the last 15 years, the brand has reaped many benefits. In terms of consumer satisfaction, their message has resonated with the environmentally conscious and has subsequently influenced other clothing and apparel companies to follow suit. I mean, who doesn’t appreciate an environmentally attentive clothing product manufactured through a conscious approach?
Patagonia products last virtually forever and can be recycled for further use; a selling point that their green marketing team has emphasized. Resultantly, Patagonia’s target market has expanded, and sales have gone through the roof.
What sets Patagonia apart from its competitors is its incorruptible commitment to sustainable products and practices. Even with one percent of the company’s earnings donated to noble causes annually, it remains a highly profitable business. Its success can be almost entirely attributed to its consistent and authentic green marketing efforts. Such endeavors include, but are not limited to, the reselling of second-hand merchandise on their official website, the utilization of solar power at most Patagonia factories and headquarters, as well as the implementation of a free service to consumers of Patagonia products in the United States needing merchandise repairs.
At a more local level, Sealand Gear is a company inspired by nature and handmade from waste materials. You can’t get more ethical than that!
However, not all companies emulate the green practices followed by Patagonia and Sealand Gear. Have you ever bitten into a choc chip cookie only to find… RAISINS! Talk about trust issues… Not everything is always as it seems, and just like that deceitful chocolate-y-looking raisin cookie, some companies appear to be doing more in the green marketing space - if anything at all - than they actually are. Due to the large pressure placed on companies to ‘go green’ and provide alternatives to wasteful products in addition to clean business practices, there is an opportunity to take advantage of the good heart of the consumer. This is better understood through the term ‘greenwashing’. Greenwashing can be defined as a practice in which misleading or unsubstantiated claims with regard to environmental and social concerns are made in order to sway consumers into purchasing a product or promoting a brand. Companies may use this tactic to capitalize on the consumer pressure for more environmentally friendly products and packaging, for example. Rather than taking action and making concrete changes to reduce their impact on the environment, some companies choose to create a false appearance to win over the environmentally conscious consumer. Instead, their time and money are wasted.
As consumers, we can lessen the success that these greenwashing companies have by making conscious decisions. Here are some things to look out for to avoid supporting companies guilty of greenwashing:
Sneaky and ambiguous wording: Eco-friendly, green, natural, earth-friendly, and more have been noted as words to take with a pinch of salt. For example, natural could refer to a product containing the naturally occurring ingredient palm oil, yet we all know that the collection of palm oil is incredibly damaging to the planet. Clearly, brands and products containing palm oil (which is just about everything) are not reducing their negative impact on the planet but are rather adding to it.
Evidence on company websites: A company’s transparency is key to a trusting relationship. Little to no evidence should be a red flag!
Authentic and reliable labeling: Labels that are clear about their claims are more reliable, but don’t forget to watch out for those sneaky and ambiguous claims
The future of green marketing
Although the response to green marketing is largely positive, a frustrating paradox remains. The desire for consumers to own eco-friendly products and consume environmentally conscious materials is large, while the actual follow-through to purchase said products and materials are half. Evidence suggests that sixty-five percent of surveyed consumers want to buy from purpose-driven brands, yet approximately twenty-six percent actually do. This startling revelation raises an important concern; is the price tag attached to a green product or service discouraging an entire group of potential consumers, and what can be done to rectify this?
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