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Promoting Your Green Efforts

Angie Bourdaghs and Sara Brown
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

If your green marketing efforts need some help, you probably fall into one of two categories: either you have not marketed your green efforts at all, or you have but it does not seem to make any difference. Either way, you may want to consider a different approach to green marketing. When the economy was flourishing and business was booming, marketing your greenness may have taken a back seat to expending all of your energy on day-to-day operations. However, especially now that the economy is suffering, you should look at green marketing as an investment.

There are many benefits to marketing your green efforts:

(1) Planting the seed now could help build new relationships with long term customers.

(2) It will reinforce a positive image with current customers that they are buying green.

(3) Your actions help build a reputation that your business continues to be green in the tough times as well as the good, and that eco-commitment should mean something to your customers.

Many customers are looking for green. Some are still buying green as they always have, and some more. A survey by Green Seal certifiers and advertising firm EnviroMedia found that half are buying as many green products as before the downturn, while 19 percent are buying more. Also, a new study on consumer behavior from Deloitte confirms that there is an unrealized, latent consumer demand for sustainable products; almost half of consumers consider sustainability in purchasing decisions.1

Small businesses do not have the marketing budgets of large businesses, but they do typically have a more intimate connection with their customers. This makes it possible to educate each customer more effectively about the company’s green initiatives, raising their awareness while earning their business.2

Ideas for green marketing:

• Seek out a green certification. These programs have criteria and checklists, and certification is a great marketing tool.

• Apply to become a member and promote your business in the local Minnesota green business directory [Minnesota GREEN PAGES Directory, doitgreen.org] and the national directory [National Green Pages, greenamericatoday.org].

• Sponsor a local environmental group, environmental workshop, or conference.

• Green your supply chain. Ask your vendors to supply green materials.

• Write an article about your ‘green’ efforts for local environmental publications, newspapers, and newsletters.

• Showcase your green efforts prominently on your website. Advertise yourself on green business websites and link back to your website.

• Send out mailers highlighting your green efforts or coupons for your green products using recycled content paper and soy based inks (and make sure this information is visible), but beware, perception is reality for many consumers and this may be seen as wasteful.

• Educate your employees about your green efforts so they can help spread the word.

• Set up an information booth at one of the many green events and expos throughout Minnesota.

According to the 2009 BBMG Conscious Consumer Report, BBMG, a marketing firm, found that 77 percent of Americans are actively seeking information to verify green claims. On the other hand, nearly one in four U.S. consumers (23 percent) say they have “no way of knowing” if a product is green or actually does what it claims, signaling a lack of confidence in green marketing, revealing what BBMG called a widespread “green trust gap.” Be clear and honest when describing your practices. Consumers are often confused about what constitutes a green practice. Unclear or misleading information could compromise customer trust. If customers find out they have been misled about green efforts, also known as “green washing,” they will lose faith in green products and other green businesses, and that will have a negative effect on the environment and possibly your bottom line. The Federal Trade Commission has written guidance to help steer away from misleading claims along with correct usage of environmental terms, available at ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/general/gen02.shtm.

Read Up

Green Marketing ” GreenBuzz. August 2009. greenbiz.com/browse/marketing-communications/Marketing”Green Marketing 101: There’s No Such Thing As a Green Product.” Sustainable Brands 08. July 2008. greenmarketing.com go to News section.”The Seven Sins of Greenwashing.” TerraChoice Environmental Marketing. August 2009. sinsofgreenwashing.org.”

References

1 “Only 22% of Consumers Purchasing Sustainable Products.” sustainablelifemedia.com/content/story/strategy/22_of_consumers_purchasing_sustainable_products. August 10, 2009.

2 Green Your Work, by Kim Carlson. Adams Media, 2009

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