The American Marketing Association defines green marketing as “the marketing of products that are presumed environmentally safe”. It includes a broad range of activities, including product modification, changes to the production process, packaging changes, as well as modifying advertising.
However, this definition does not do the term justice. Green marketing ( or Environmental Marketing or Ecological Marketing as it is also called ) does not just include the marketing of green products, but also suiting your marketing methodologies and strategies so that they themselves are more environment friendly.
Let us attempt to understand this with the help of our tried and tested : 7 P’s of marketing
It all begins with the product. First of all you have to ensure that your product is environment friendly.
You have to pay special attention to things like manufacturing processes, packaging, waste management, sources of energy and others to achieve this.
Some of the major considerations are :
- What is the impact of production, sourcing of materials and packaging on the environment?
- Can minimum levels of packaging and environment friendly packaging be achieved without compromising product quality or appeal?
- Are your suppliers at least as environmentally friendly as you?
Employing green manufacturing techniques might lead to increases or decreases in the cost of production. In many cases the initial high investments will be off set in the longer run by lower fuel bills through energy efficiency measures or an increase in sales caused by a positive product image. An organization might be able to pass the increase in production costs to its customers, but this would depend on various factors such as the level of increase, type of consumer, competitor prices and the strength of the economy.
Organizations need to carefully plan their distribution centers, distribution timings, distribution strategies to ensure that they have minimum impact on the environment.
The fastest mode of transportation might be damaging to the environment ( e.g. AirPlanes ), a environmentally friendly mode of transportation might not be fast enough to meet your needs ( e.g. Canals ), a method of distribution that combines speed with “environmentally friendliness” may increase distribution costs ( e.g. Electric Vehicles ). You have to ensure that you strike a proper balance between the three
Your employees are the face of your organization. They must not behave in a manner which would conflict with your organization’s image as a green company. You should encourage your employees to use environmentally friendly methods of transportation while commuting to their offices like mass transit systems, hybrid vehicles, carpooling etc. For example. Google offers incentives to its employees who opt-in to buy hybrid vehicles. One other example is the increasing use of teleconferencing to replace frequent travel.
Processes are referred to the systems that enable an organization to effectively deliver its goods and services. They refer to the activities that your organization performs which are not the core activities of your company. It is very important to incorporate environmentally friendly processes in the day-to-day activities of your organization to convey to world that you take the environment seriously. Croma, the electronics retail chain by TATA has recently started allowing customers to opt-in for an eReceipt. IRCTC has allowed customers to carry digital copies of their reservation receipts.
Much of what your organization does to incorporate green practices is back-end oriented, many times it is intangible. Therefore it becomes very important to let your customer know the steps you have taken to ensure the future of the planet. Many a times, this is as simple as letting your customer know why certain things are done the way they are done. E.g. To preserve water many hotels wash towels, bed sheets, etc, only when you explicitly ask them to do so. Some customers might believe that this has been done by the hotel only to save some money. In this case it becomes important to convey the thinking the behind your actions to your clients. This is done by placing a green card in hotel rooms ( as shown alongside ) which conveys this to the customers.
Now that you have ensured that your product and your marketing is environmentally friendly, it is very important to convey that to your customers. Some of the above pictures / logos are an internationally and instantly recognized signs of a green product. Incorporating these on your product packaging and on your communication is an instant signal to your audience that your product is environment friendly.
At the same time, its is also very important to ensure that your promotion strategy itself is environment friendly. Example :
- If you cannot completely avoid using pamphlets to promote your products, you can atleast ensure that they are printed on recycled paper
- Employ environmental friendly methods when filming your advertisement films
- Avoid use of paper as much as possible, don't ask users to fill in unnecessary forms, try and utilize the internet as a medium as much as possible
- If you are using outdoor mobile advertisements, ensure that the vehicles you use are environment friendly
- Make extensive use of mobile advertising, online advertising, social media marketing and other such means of marketing which would reduce the impact on the environment as compared to using newspapers, television ad spots, etc;
High Initial Costs
The initial investment in going green is quite high. Not just in terms of money being invested, but in terms of huge R&D involved in figuring out newer, better and environment friendly methods of manufacturing, packaging, etc; a huge change in the operating of the company itself , changing of the company’s corporate structure, time lag required to get your company onto the green track.
Going green as a CSR initiative
Many companies undertake green marketing strategies as part of their CSR activities. However, every company should realize that going green is not just a CSR activity but something that should be incorporated in the corporate structure of the company itself.
Customers not ready
In a recent study published by MeidaPost, much of the American customers think that green marketing is nothing more than a marketing ploy. This mindset has be changed with effective communication.
Green washing is a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization's aims and policies are environmentally friendly, when they might not really be so. Whether it is to increase profits or gain political support, greenwashing may be used to manipulate popular opinion to support otherwise questionable aims. ( more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenwashing)
The Road Ahead
Why should a company go green ? Well, because it’s the right thing to do. And in the long term, you might not really have any other option. Costs of traditional fuels is skyrocketing day-by-day. The rate at which the environment is deteriorating is alarming, this is causing even the most arrogant governments to take notice. And many countries are passing laws which are incentivizing or even forcing companies to adapt green practices in their business. Eventually every company will be required to conduct business in an environmentally responsible way.
So why not do the right thing now instead of waiting? Why not keep up with the competition—maybe even beat them to the punch—by becoming the company that owns green in your category?
And if you think the economy will keep customers from paying more for an environmentally responsible product or service, think again. A recent survey has shown that 82% of consumers are still purchasing green products during the recession
Originally appeared in MAGMA, the newsletter of the Marketing Club of the Sydenham Institute of Management Studies, Research and Entrepreneurship Education. ( http://goo.gl/AyPl1 )