Turning Green?

Green is the new black. The image of the corporation as a
faceless, heartless black hole is giving way to a happier, greener
corporate image that cares about social responsibility. McDonald’s
has begun marketing some foods as healthy and eco-friendly. Nike
has even tried to market itself as

the industry’s leader in improving factory conditions
.’ But how
sincere is this metamorphosis? And how effective are these
marketing campaigns in getting the consumer to ‘go green’?

The answers may not be as hopeful as you think. Socially
responsible marketing can easily lead to
greenwashing,’
where companies try to cover up environmental irresponsibility with
ads espousing their environmentally responsible ways. General
Motors is notorious for this tactic,

according to the Union of Concerned Scientists
(UCS),
especially in regards to their ‘hybrid’ cars. The UCS claims that
many GM cars using hybrid technology are ‘not hybrids,’ and
actually undermine the hybrid market by lowering fuel economy
expectations.

Misleading advertising may be one reason why green marketing
isn’t as effective as it should be.

Joel Makower, founder of the Green Business Network
, identifies
the problem as the ‘4/40 Gap,’ where 40 percent of people claim
they are interested in green products, but only 4 percent actually
go out and buy them. Eco-friendly marketing can be effective in
promoting companies, but it’s not always effective in promoting
environmental responsibility.

Makower’s comments come in response to a report entitled
Talk The Walk: Advancing
Sustainable Lifestyles through Marketing and Communications

produced in part by the United Nations Environment Programme. The
idea is to ‘advance sustainable development,’ and ‘promote
environmental responsibility under the UN Global Compact,’ through
the study of marketing strategies and consumer attitudes toward
green products. (Check out the database of ads on the report’s
website, under ‘Ads Studied.’) According to the report, ‘The key to
overcoming barriers to sustainable consumption while making a
profit definitely constitutes the Holy Grail for marketers, with
potential for delivering double-digit growth for years to
come.’

This approach, Makower says, is dubious. ‘Talk the Walk’ takes a
‘green Trojan horse’ tactic in marketing, where consumers are
basically lulled into buying environmentally sound products.
Makower describes this as trying to ‘[m]ake consumers be greener in
spite of themselves.’ Instead, he promotes a more ‘holistic’ way of
green marketing, advocating a five-tiered approach of ‘[i]ncreasing
consumer awareness and choice; promoting innovative policies;
accelerating demand for greener products; demanding corporate
accountability; and encouraging sustainable business
practices.’

Go there >>

Green Marketing and the ‘4/40 Gap’

Go there too >>
Talk the Walk

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