Green marketing is an innovative marketing instrument promoting one of the major aspects of corporate social responsibility. With the enforcement of environmental laws worldwide and the growth of ecological consciousness among the consumers, the majority of companies strive to build environmentally-friendly reputations. Eco-minded businesses use the tool to develop ongoing improvements in the field of environmental impact and inform the relevant stakeholders about these efforts. As of now, there is no standard definition of the term “green marketing.” Numerous parties involved in the business interaction differ in how they formulate priorities attributed to the eco-qualification of products and processes. In her book, The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools, and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding, Jacquelyn Ottman characterizes “green marketing” as the creation of comparatively “greener” and more “sustainable” products. The former leave minimum ecological imprint on the planet while the latter provide a long-term contribution to society.
The ambiguity of the term comes from the multitude of advantages that can characterize a product as ‘green.’ Taking into account that presently the majority of consumers willing to pay a premium for their eco-value live in the U.S., the country also hosts leaders and innovators in environmental marketing. As a rule, a product or a service should be inherently green or manufactured and packed in an environmentally friendly way. Considering that every company consumes energy and natural resources to deliver products to the market, any business can take ‘green’ credit for its efforts in lean production, energy saving, and resources conservation. Likewise, waste is an impending consequence of any production processes. Therefore, achieving waste reduction through efficient recycling plans is a meaningful accomplishment on the environmental path. For example, many manufacturers of household paper products, like Kimberly-Clark’s Scott Naturals, use recycled material as a primary resource in their production process. Reynolds Wrap makes its foil using only recycled aluminum while Church & Dwight’s Arm & Hammer Essentials focuses on the maximization of recycled components in their laundry items. Other manufacturers seek changes in their production operations that would adopt the implementation of renewable ‘green’ energy, such as wind, solar thermal and hydro power. Intel Corporation, Microsoft Corporation, Kohl's Department Stores, Apple Inc., and Unilever are the national leaders in the list of energy-conscious organizations (EPA).
Minimization of industrial waste has been recognized not only as a ‘greener’ way of production but also as an essential source of cost-efficiency. Ben and Jerry’s is one of the national ‘green’ role models with its long-time commitment to inspiring healthy lifestyles. It has been working hard for 15 years to see not only the 50% decrease of greenhouse emissions but also to develop an eco-friendly range of products and 100% recyclable packaging. Johnson and Johnson is another veteran of ecological footprint reduction. Its sustainability reports for the recent decades reflect a substantial reduction in energy and materials waste. Its current business plan incorporates a bold intention to become the most eco-friendly company across the globe. Method is one of the companies born from an eco-conscious concept. Its product range contains only non-toxic and reusable laundry and cleaning products. Engaging environmental chemists to select and arrange components and production processes was one of its innovative steps to gain a competitive edge among other socially responsible manufacturers of household products.
American and European food and beverage companies become the pioneers and promoters of eco-friendly agricultural methods. Whole Foods is a network of supermarkets offering organic food items. It keeps its suppliers accountable for abiding by the rules and regulations of ‘green’ farming. The company also maintains high standards for energy conservation, waste reduction, and biodegradable packaging solutions. Starbucks Company is another national favorite with a historical focus on environmental coffee-growing operations. It selects its superior coffee plantations worldwide based on their sustainable practices and rewards them with above-average compensations.
Environmental responsibility worldwide is another aspect that can be enforced and motivated by corporations within the framework of their socially conscious business plans. Initially censorious of its suppliers in terms of eco-minded and customer-friendly values, Walmart went further with its Personal Responsibility Projects. It educated, guided and rewarded positive behavior change among its associates. This initiative included dropping smoking and drinking habits, as well as shedding weight, collecting waste, volunteering, etc. Starbucks’ Shared Planet is a similar plan that informs its partners and employees about extra opportunities and benefits of being ‘green’ and supports conscious behavior with its performance.
Innovation provides infinite possibilities to evolve towards ‘greener’ processes and products. Vehicle manufacturers race for the fuel-friendly cars. Toyota Prius, Chevrolet Spark, Nissan Leaf, Mercedes-Benz Smart, Honda Civic, Mitsubishi Mirage are in the top ten of the ‘greenest’ vehicles of 2015. These products achieve superior fuel efficiency and low emission characteristics with the adoption of electric, hybrid, or natural gas engine solutions.
Listed above are the main and the most popular ways of becoming eco-efficient. However, there are opportunities of becoming ‘greener’ at every level of business process.
The term “green washing” stands for the ecological positioning of products, services and processes without any reasonable justification for such claims. Unlike “green marketing,” which is a part of corporate social responsibility, “green washing” is a trick of deceptive public relations. The notion appeared in 1986, when one of the American eco-activists, Jay Westervelt, used it to define the popular hotel initiative of the time. They encouraged their guests to reuse the towels allegedly contributing to the preservation of energy and reducing waste. In reality, the hotels improved their operation costs without the slightest benefit for the environment. In practice, ‘green washing’ can be regarded as a dishonest and unfair instrument of ‘green marketing.’ Rule of a thumb is that a company can be blamed for ‘green washing’ if its expenses for ‘green’ advertising are higher than the actual investment in becoming ‘green’. It can take a number of tacit forms from ungrounded small talk about loyalty to the ‘green’ principles to the adornment of products in eco-looking packaging and certificates of false eco-safety.
Whole Foods “Favorite Dishes” advertising establishes a number of genuine environmental claims. They engage local organic farmers and supplies and use custom cut meat. Whole Foods’ specialists supervise the content of all products warranting their abstinence from any artificial ingredients. This information is true as it describes the actual operational process adopted by the network of the foods supermarkets.
BMW Super Bowl advertising of its i3 model allows the audience to compare the advent of the modern electric cars to the birth of the Internet. The ad features famous anchors discussing the production process powered by the wind energy and then mentioning the fact that the traditional engine under the hood is missing. The credibility of information presented in this ad has been confirmed by the actual product and its numerous awards.
Walmart’s video features a little girl buying a lot of products at the store at the cost of her money-box savings. She goes on to package the tennis balls and deliver them to the hospice along with the trained dogs from the shelter. The company agues that, by keeping its commitment to low prices, it provides people with opportunities to improve each others lives. This ad is true because Walmart is famous for its “always low” pricing policy.
The 2011 Coca-Cola commercial named “Arctic Home” is an example of ‘green washing’. It talks about the troubles that the white bears have to endue due to the climate change. Coca-Cola boasts its 5 year cooperation with the WWF and the annual donation of $ 400,000 to the arctic bear conservation initiatives. All they actually do to the product is paint the can white over the holiday period.
Pepsi True ad is another ‘green washing’ attempt. It features an attractive scene of two teenage love-birds and compares the taste of their first love to the Pepsi Cola flavor. The new product contains 29 grams of sugar. This degree is still significantly exceeds the sugar supply of a healthy diet defined by the WHO. Potentially leading to obesity and related diseases, the product cannot be claimed as ‘green’.
Lincoln’s MKZ Hybrid advertising staring Matthew McConaughey is an attempt of ‘green washing’ because it takes the priority off the environmental issues and focuses on the traditional values of this car company, i.e., prestige, class, and status. The apparent implication is that it is not a duty of humanity to preserve the environment. It just happens so that at people of substance might indulge in eco-minded behavior.