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Make Sure Your Green Initiatives Don't Leave You Red-Faced

(August 2007) posted on Thu Aug 23, 2007

Incorporating real eco-friendly plans into your company.

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By Andrea Southcott

The year 2007 will likely be remembered as the year that green marketing went mainstream. Powered by Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, high-profile Hollywood stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and his film The 11th Hour, and persuasive education of the younger generation in schools, the environment has become a focal point for companies in every industry.

This is a step change from the past, when a company's environmental strategy was commented on in the annual report but was rarely the core focus in a business's strategic planning sessions. Concern over climate change was voiced mainly by those dedicated to the cause or by businesses carving out a specific market niche.

Today, an escalating array of companies is rushing to develop innovations that meet emerging environmental demands and serve as differentiators against the competition.

Sony is breaking convention with its new line of hand-cranked products like the Spin N' Snap camera, the Push Power Play Viewer and the Crank N' Capture Video Camera. Hewlett-Packard is offering postage-paid envelopes for used cartridges. Meraki Outdoor has developed a neighborhood solar-power kit enabling communities to use stored energy from the sun to drive high-speed Internet. Vancity, with its national virtual bank Citizens Bank, has created a Climate Change Mortgage which directs savings generated by marketing virally online (versus traditional channels) to a climate change fund. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows represented the largest purchase of Forest Stewardship Council-certified paper ever used in a single title printing. One of my favorites is Dole, which launched a new line of organic bananas that let you track the origin of each banana via a three-digit 'farm code' on the Dole sticker. The code takes you to for photos of the farm and details of its organic certification.

Getting green right
Companies are jumping on green marketing because it can deliver myriad benefits, including stronger brand equity, new sales revenue and happier employees. But while the rewards and accolades of eco-innovation can come fast in today's heightened marketplace, so can negative news. When showcasing an eco-friendly message, marketers have to be keenly aware of the potential for backlash if they get it wrong. Missteps are picked up quickly, with media reports and blogs holding marketers who are not true to the tenants of good green marketing to account.

So how do you get it right? Consider these critical factors: