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Wednesday 30 July 2008

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Is it a lack of imagination or just a herd mentality which is driving marketers to kill off any advantage that green credentials may bring?

The planet is nearing its use-by date but if you believe the green spin put on products and services these days, the environment is there to be saved by consumer choices.

Detergent and toilet paper marketers have been at it for years.  It took the print industry a while to cotton on, but you can’t find a non-green printer these days.

BP (which used to call itself British Petroleum) represents itself as a flower – as if the carbon released from its fuel is in some way beautiful.

Even the banks have got in on the act.  The NAB down the road from us is refurbishing its building and has plastered rainforest imagery over the construction hoardings.

The term “greenwash” itself was coined way back in 1986 when an American environmentalist blew the whistle on a hotel group attempting to save money by encouraging guests to use their towels more than once before asking that they be washed.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has been cracking down on Greenwash claims.  It has recently tackled a number of airconditioning companies and, more famously, took on car maker SAAB over its green claims.

But the practice is so prevalent and pervasive you have to wonder what hope the ACCC has of holding back the tide.

Late last year US marketing company TerraChoice made a splash with a study which found that 99 per cent of 1018 randomly surveyed common consumer products were guilty of greenwashing.  It went on to define six common ways that greenwashing was done.

My thoughts are that “greenwash” is killing itself.

People aren’t stupid.

How can emitting carbon reduce the effects of global warming?  It can’t.

And the more spin put on green claims, the less effective they will become.

Where previously consumers had been impressed and motivated by green businesses, in the future marketers will have to deal with increased skepticism and cynicism.

The standard in today’s world is that people reasonably expect businesses to be just as concerned as they are about environmental issues.  To make green claims will increasingly be seen as “motherhood” statements.

The ways things are going, there will come a time when marketers will have to assess whether or not claiming green credentials will in fact assist a campaign.

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