Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Green is the Colour

That was the name of the first apartment my husband and I owned. It is of course also the name of a Pink Floyd song, and 10 years ago, when you said green, people just expected green paint.

Now, with the eco-movement going mainstream, google green and you get a whole bunch of environmentally friendly products and how you can reduce your carbon footprint. But today, green is still a bit fuzzy. When a company says it is "green" it doesn't always specify whether the organization itself is going green or whether it is enabling others to go green. For example, just because you sell wind turbines or solar heaters you may not be a green company yourself. It is quite possible today for you to produce the goods with fossil fuels and still qualify for a fuzzy green tag. As more people get onto the green bandwagon (solar-powered, of course), this will change and consumers will demand greater clarity.

The other curious thing was that when you google "green marketing" the bulk of the hits are about how you can position yourself as a green company as opposed to turning your marketing department more eco-friendly. That's a rather head-in-sand approach, because we marketers are one of the biggest discretionary consumers of paper around. Designers who will cheerfully airdry their hands in the cause of saving a tree, will insist on a 32-pages of glossy paper for their one-time-use brochure. I love the feel of paper. And I am loathe to give it up. But this year, by pushing e-cards and pricing the traditional greeting cards which used to be handed out free to employees to distribute to their clients we cut our consumption by half from the year before. Should we make that zero next year or leave it to the users to decide?
The issue is that there is so little standardization or a templatized green process in the marketing space. We used recycled paper for the few cards we did print. But the only paper which matched the quality we needed was imported. It was an eco-conundrum - should we use regular paper (and cause some trees to be chopped) or use recycled paper and consume fuel in flying the paper to India? (Since we weren't very good at the math, we consoled ourselves that the plane would have flown anyway so our paper did not add to the carbon emission!!)
But this little episode highlights the challenges of being a green pioneer. Any comments on how marketing can go more green are very welcome.