Green marketing: Sales-oriented, yet environmentally conscious

It has long been known that cheaply produced consumer goods and the often cited “throwaway mentality” of consumers have a negative impact on the environment and working conditions in many of the producing countries. However, most people have only become fully aware of the extent of these problems in recent years, whether through awareness campaigns by NGOs or private content in social media channels. The images of working children in textile factories, piles of rubbish on dreamy beaches, and plastic in the stomach of dead animals have gradually started leading to a rethink.

Today, it is becoming increasingly important for consumers to be able to consume with a clear conscience. This is where green marketing comes in. It is an instrument for companies to communicate sustainable production strategies and environmentally conscious activities, and in this way, to win new customers or to retain existing customers in the long term.

What is green marketing? Definition and background

Green marketing, eco-marketing, ecologically-oriented marketing, sustainable marketing – all these essentially synonymous terms revolve around the successful marketing placement of sustainably-produced products. The term “green marketing” is the English equivalent of “eco-marketing” and the like, but is now also increasingly used internationally.

In the economic context, green marketing refers to all advertising and information efforts that promote or emphasise the environmental compatibility of products or the sustainability of the production chain. It is not just a matter of convincing customers of the sustainability of their own products or services, with targeted advertising measures. The term also includes all measures that affect the improvement of a company’s environmental balance sheet or its production processes.

Definition

Green marketing is the part of sustainable corporate management that reduces the harmful impacts of all market-related aspects of the production and use of products for the environment and people, and in the best case even completely avoids them. The aim is to design the production, marketing, and use of a product in such a way that customers are encouraged to conscientiously and sustainably consume it.

Responsible marketing

In a world that is increasingly suffering from the environmental sins of the past and present, every small step forward is important. First and foremost, NGOs, educational institutions, and the media have the environmentally conscious, sustainable consumption task of educating people about environmental problems. They inform us on causes and long-term consequences, and propose solutions to improve the current situation. However, companies can also assume responsibility and act within the framework of corporate social responsibility. This means that they not only act in a sales-oriented manner, but also take social, ecological, and ethical aspects into account in their decisions.

In this overall concept, green marketing is the subarea that concentrates on an environmentally friendly, sustainable orientation of marketing measures. To put it simply, it is about integrating ecological aspects into all areas of marketing. The basis for this is the classic marketing mix with its four pillars, which are also called the 4Ps of marketing due to their designations:

  1. Product
  2. Price
  3. Place
  4. Promotion

Each individual area can be made greener through ecologically-oriented measures. The possibilities range from packaging made of recycled materials and more environmentally friendly distribution channels to leasing or deposit models instead of classic sales.

Implementation and advantages of green marketing

There are different ways to establish green marketing in a company. They are based on how strongly the company wants to position itself and what (financial and personnel) effort can/should be made:

  • Passive: Only the applicable laws and regulations are implemented.
  • Selective: The selection of ecological measures is based on the competition and goes just minimally beyond their activities.
  • Internal: Green marketing focuses on internal company processes like development and production.
  • Innovative: A comprehensive eco-strategy will be developed, not just based on already known and proven methods, but also taking innovative paths in the field of environmental protection and sustainability. The aim is to set new standards and set an example.

Depending on which orientation you choose, green marketing can be reflected in the classic 4P marketing mix as follows:

  • Product policy: The product should consist of natural or at least environmentally friendly materials. In the best case, it not only helps to protect nature, but also helps to mitigate existing environmental damage.
  • Price policy: The additional costs arising from the orientation towards ecological aspects may be reflected to a certain extent in the price. If the price increase is communicated transparently and plausibly, many consumers are prepared to pay a higher price for sustainably produced goods. If the opportunity arises, leasing or sharing options are also possible that simultaneously have resource-saving and social components.
  • Distribution policy: The transport routes required within the framework of a production cycle as well as the distribution channels are decisive for the ecological footprint of a product. They should therefore be organized as environmentally friendly and resource-saving as possible. This can be achieved, for example, by using regional raw materials.
  • Communication: On the one hand, this is about making advertising as environmentally friendly as possible, e.g. by avoiding using flyers, which often end up in the garbage after a brief glance. On the other hand, a communication strategy must be developed for the company’s own environmental activities. This involves informing (future) customers and retaining them for the long time.

Ultimately, every company must decide for itself how seriously it implements green marketing strategies and how dominantly it communicates them to the outside world. It is important that the procedure is credible, to avoid any accusation of so-called “greenwashing.” This very negative term is used to describe PR measures that present a company or individual products as particularly environmentally friendly and sustainable, without this corresponding to reality. Consumers are therefore deliberately deceived in order to achieve competitive advantages in the short term. This kind of approach, however, permanently damages the image of a company.

Explaining green marketing with an example

The following examples illustrate the skilful implementation of green marketing in a medium-sized company, as well as in a large international company.

1) Patagonia

Patagonia is an outdoor clothing company based in California, with a strong commitment to the environment and is a great example of green marketing. Founded by accomplished rock climbers, the brand scores high in terms of authenticity when it comes to its environmental commitments. Even though, admittedly, many of the garments they produce are made of plastic, Patagonia are quick to acknowledge this issue, and are working on ways to combat microplastic pollution that occurs when their plastic-based garments are washed in a washing machine.

The company is deeply involved with environmental protection and land preservation, and is willing to delve into politics to achieve its environmental goals. Patagonia donates 1% of annual earnings to environmental groups and is involved in the Go Green movement. Its green marketing strategy is visible in its company mission, and is hugely successful, thanks to its authentic image and commitment to education and sustainability.

2) Ikea

While Ikea is synonymous with low cost, mass produced homewares, the company has made strides in recent years when it comes to sustainability in both its products, and work processes. Ikea sources half of its wood from sustainable growers, and all cotton from Better Cotton standard-meeting suppliers. Ninety percent of Ikea stores are kitted out with hundreds of thousands of solar panels, and plans have been announced to be completely powered by renewables by 2020.

Ikea has also implemented a strategy called People & Planet Positive, which encourages consumers to consider the environment when purchasing. This strategy also includes implementing eco-friendly practices in the production process, making product ranges more sustainable.

Ikea has been recognised by the Impact Company for its work on human rights, as well as the environment.

Please note the legal disclaimer relating to this article.


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