When we hear “green marketing,” different images spring to mind.
Is it about the environment, about organic food or about lifestyle?
It’s fashionable (read: profitable) for companies to profile themselves as green or having green products.
Even Vanity Fair launched a green issue that sold well.
In a recent study, the majority of the consumers (64% of all and 51% of environmentally conscious interviewees) couldn’t name a "green" brand.
The general public wants companies to be eco-friendly and produce fuel efficient, biodegradable, natural and organic products.
Public companies took note.
Dow Chemical launched its "Human Element" campaign, addressing environmental concerns in the "global community."
In June 2006, Shell Oil followed with a $30 million marketing campaign.
General Electric continues to build on its "Ecomagination" launched in 2005 to address the demand for cleaner, more efficient sources of energy, reduced emissions and abundant sources of clean water.
Green marketing is tricky because the public is very much aware of "greenwashing" – paying lip service to its consumers while continuing past practices.
Ford found that out when it retracted its promise to produce 250,000 hybrids a year by 2010. In its statement, Ford promised to look into building vehicles that use alternative fuel and flexible-fuel vehicles, which can use either an ethanol-based fuel or regular gas.
Its consumers were not amused.
The trailblazer in corporate green marketing is without a doubt the oil company British Petroleum.
BP is credited with being one of the first companies to make a significant grab for the green title with its 2003 "Beyond Petroleum" campaign.
In it, BP emphasized wind power, solar energy and renewable energy resources.
Under chairman John Browne, BP became one of the largest producers of solar panels, and made significant investments in hydrogen and wind power.
Despite its commitment, the majority of BP’s revenue comes from petroleum.
BP’s green image has attracted eco-conscious investors, including World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
During the company's annual general meeting in April 2006, WWF called for a resolution to have BP disclose how it measures and controls the risks to its investors of operating in environmentally sensitive areas.
Although it was voted down by a whopping 89%, it is a clear sign that “green” investors expect BP to live up to its image and keep on distinguishing itself from its peers.
If not, it will not only loose on the PR front, but “green” investors might decide to disinvest, according to Trillium Asset Management, which manages $700 million in socially responsible funds.
And that would also be a blow for green marketing....