Green 'WASH' - A Sin Committed Towards The Consumers Or An Advertising Virtue

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 1633 , Published on 07 November 2012

It is said that, any book having the word ‘sex’ in its title is bound to be picked-up from its rack!

And so does the saying aptly imply to brands too. Revising the saying, one can say;

Any book having the product displaying ‘green’ on its wrapper is bound to be picked-up from its shelf!!!

Owing to the general interest in environment, and the declaration of a world Earth Day on the 22nd of April in 1970, there was uproar of organizations claiming themselves to be in the favour of the environment. Millions of dollars were spent by them in the fight to claim how they are more of eco-friendly than their competitors. Green awareness became a fad that everyone wanted to catch-up with.

On one hand the brands were not only abusing the environment, but were also glossing over this exploitation by means of promoting an opinion among the consumers by claiming that their product is more eco friendly than it really is. And hence recognizing this, environmentalists coined the term ‘GREENWASH’.

It is amusing when shampoo companies claim their products to be have ‘organic fragrances’ and put the names of all the synthetic scents added when mentioning the contents of the shampoo; or when hotels promote reusing of bathing towels stating that it will help them save water by washing less number of towels. But the actual reason behind this was the scarcity of staff to wash the towels!

When doing so, what these brands failed to realize was the line of distinction between promoting green marketing benefits for the environment and in doing so for their own advantages. But, they aptly capitalized on the fact that consumer knowledge was limited in this area and he was getting molded in this cast that they had set for him. And, hence their arguments about being eco-friendly were getting acknowledged to any degree.

There were certain flaws to these in the long run. Firstly the terrible task of misleading the consumer where the organization was defying the trust of a generation of individuals; and this is where the second flaw comes out stating that once these individuals are made aware of this, they were bound to become skeptical of all other products and become critical toward these.

However, there were certain advantages of greenwashing. We had certain Greenwash watchdogs like Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth, which became prevalent in sectors that validated the presence of greenwashed products. Ever since then, we have had innumerable instances of environmental reporting.

But, some organizations who genuinely tried to ‘go green’ were lost in their quest to grow quickly in today’ economy, and on other hand to be environment loving. Some who turned-out to be heroes were: Tamil Nadu Newsprint and Papers Limited, ITC Limited, PepsiCo..

(PepsiCo. purchases 1.144 billion kWh of green power per year according to their energy certificates which is generated from wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass sources.)

These were not just encouraging green living but also educating customers about the need for such products in today’s world, their certifications and their benefits.

In this world of crazy marketing competition, it becomes necessary that the consumer broadens his way of choosing products. He needs to determine the need for those products. It becomes important for him to know if a product is a solution to an issue or a new issue requiring a solution.

And on the part of the organizations, it is imperative that they promote the product as eco-friendly without stretching the truth behind it.  Consumer confidence can be gained by getting the organization certified under LEED. And when it comes to internal functioning of the organization, the reduction of industrial pollution is the best way to reduce the carbon footprint especially when it helps reduce the greenhouse gases. Organizations can also encourage corporate eco-friendliness by switching-off lights and workstations when not in use. Moreover, the materials used for production can be alternatives to the contaminating ones.

By doing so, we are not just taking the required steps to maintain a balanced ecology, but we also enjoy the benefits of having an informed consumer.

Now it is still left for the respective organizations to decide if Greenwash is a sin committed towards the consumers or an advertising virtue……

This article has been authored by Deepa Kamat from Welingker Institute, Mumbai.



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