Green Conviction meets Market Opportunism?
There’s a growing acceptance of the marketing potency of going green…isn’t there? Chris Grannell consulting director at strategy agency Ellis Foster McVeigh posted a very interesting comment to an earlier post of mine about the conflicts and potentially synergies of Conviction Greens (believers) vs Commercial Greens (marketing opportunists). Chris said that since “both groups seek uptake of their ideas – market penetration in other words” the two are sufficiently aligned to just get on with it and commit to increased emphasis on green marketing across the board.
However, reports from the recent US National Retailers Federation convention reported that at a series ofSessions the prevailing view was that there was insufficient consumer push to provide strong rationale for going green. (Confirming this, my own research has turned up little in the way of solid evidence quantitatively linking green values to market success; perhaps others can point me in the right direction?).
Speaking at one session, Kevin Hagen, director of social responsibility at REI, the outdoors chain, gave his reasons why businesses need to address sustainable practice and look at green products. One is activist pressure – an army of bloggers is watching business behaviour and sites like brandkarma facilitate the sharing of consumer views, both positive and negative. Second, growing government interest in where products are sourced and and what they’re made of. Third, consumers responding to green products. Chris put it slightly differently: “there are four main areas through which commercial value can be created by green: These are (1) reputation (2) cost-reduction (3) diversification into new products and (4) ex-ante advantage – in other words, getting ahead of the market and reaping the benefits later”.
Both variants seem to agree that green is bigger than ‘stick a daisy on the label’ product positioning, however even that can present enormous challenges. In the US, sustainability indexes (aka green supply chain rating systems) are becoming more common. One being developed by the outdoor recreation industry, the Eco Index, with more than 100 companies on board, is designed to measure the environmental footprint of apparel, footwear and gear which will eventually be used for customer-facing information, like the Energy Star rating on appliances. Four years into development, however, the Index isn’t ready. Eco Index brands can’t decide on how to publish it. After all, rating the sustainability of a shirt is very different from judging the green qualities of a sneaker. Walmart has been working on its similarly minded sustainability index for the past year, but so far the company hasn’t produced any eco-labels either. The difficulty of securing sufficient input information about the supply chain should not be underestimated. As Hagen said, “Our supply chain is great at getting us product. It’s really terrible at giving us information.”
But he insists sustainability doesn’t have to be consumer-driven. ” Consumers will love (our efforts). But they don’t need to be the reason why we’re doing it”.
This hints at a growing acceptance that corporations need to do the right thing purely out of a sense of responsibility to the planet. As Greg Wittbecker , a Director of Alcoa (reportedly) said “[we] must work together for common sustainability goals that transcend individual commercial objectives and we must approach this with a sense of urgency”.
Could there one day be a perfect storm where Conviction meets Market Opportunity?
- An awkward marriage of convenience struggles to consumate (marketingheart.wordpress.com)
- Green AND Sustainable; not Green OR Sustainable (cleantechblog.com)
- Make Your Green Marketing Green (adage.com)
- Green enough? How sustainable product cycling is changing the face of business (greenmarketing.tv)