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Can We Abolish ‘Green Marketing’?

Carolyn McMaster | October 5, 2010

My in-box is filled with Google alerts listing blog posts and articles that tout the benefits of green marketing, but the phrase is losing its shine. Careful analysis revealed this: the thinking seems to be that “green marketing” is a magic potion, whether or not the company or its products and services are truly sustainable and helping to reduce our collective carbon footprint.

Here’s the pitch that sent me reeling: “Thе Green Marketing Book fοr the Kindle іѕ thе ultimate guide tο ѕhοw you hοw tο mаkе money аnԁ cash іn οn thе popularity οf going green bу using proven ecological niche marketing techniques…” No wonder green marketing is becoming synonymous with greenwashing. Even when companies have a green product or internal environmental program, there’s often no genuine sustainability commitment, and offerings are simply a gambit for more market share.

Truly green marketing doesn’t need a label. If a green/sustainable organization is marketing, it’s just marketing. If someone has a green or sustainable product or service, they may want to reach a green market segment like LOHAS consumers or sustainable or cleantech businesses. But it’s still just marketing.

I’m not saying that promoting sustainable products and services isn’t different. It does require a critical difference in substance—providing transparency, being credible, and backing up claims, as well as using environmentally friendly methods (post-consumer recycled paper, more electronic communications, and so on).

That requires a genuine commitment to sustainability and the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. Wouldn’t it be great if all marketing displayed these values? I’d like to be an optimist: one day sustainable, credible communications will be the norm, and we can to do away with using “green marketing.”

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