Green marketing is a concept that is greatly misunderstood by companies as well as consumers. It continues through out production and operations and is a long process and is not only concerned about marketing. Green marketing has now emerged as an issue for companies and hence it is important that the concept is clearly understood by companies. Most issues arise from misunderstanding of concept and this is a time consuming and costly matter. This concept has several advantages and disadvantages associated to it. This paper analyses this issue in detail along with its advantages and disadvantages.
- Lessons Learned
- Advantages and Disadvantages
Concept of Green marketing and related issues
Marketing has changed a lot and is now having broader obligation to society than mere facilitation of commerce. Beyond mere commercial campaigns marketing personals and concepts are now addressing various social issues like health concerns, safety factors and other well being of customers and consumers through out the society. Green marketing is a marketing method in which environmental issues will be given highest consideration. This method addresses those issues that have environmental impact in marketing practices. Thus it can be said as a method in which products or services are marketed on the basis of environmental benefits. A product so marketed might be environmental friendly or might be packed or produced in an environmental friendly manner (Aseem).
Though green marketing is considered as a positive marketing method generally, for companies it is not an easy method to follow. This is because it is not possible for companies to produce every product or service in an environment friendly manner. It is also not possible to market products and services in an eco friendly manner. Adopting environment friendly methods of marketing might cause more expense or reduce the effectiveness of products offered by company (Jacquelyn). Thus green marketing though beneficial for environmental is at times and issue for companies and thus can be considered as a new challenge in new marketing environment. This paper tries to understand green marketing which is a new issue faced by companies in marketing, define it, understand process of green marketing and find out the advantages and disadvantages associated to it.
Green marketing is at times understood as marketing of eco friendly products or services. But in reality it is not concerned about marketing of products that are environment friendly. Green marketing refers to over all process of production to end use of a product in an environment friendly manner. This starts from usage of raw materials for production and continues till use of product by consumer or continues till recycling of product and using it again. Thus in a way green marketing can be considered as a marketing method in which environmental values along with life styles of consumers are considered as determining factors of consumer behaviour in an ecological manner (MARTIN).
Green marketing is concerned about preserving natural resources for future and present generation. Natural resources available for mankind on earth are very limited and it is the responsibility of humans to reserve it for present and future generations. An attempt must be made by every possible person and organization to maintain natural resources in a way to make it useful enough to meet unlimited wants on earth. In a market consumer is the one to choose. Our society now provides consumer with ultimate freedom of choice. In such a situation every consumer as well as organization is free to satisfy their needs. As natural resources are very limited it is for the firms to find alternative ways to satisfy their unlimited wants. Through green marketing firms can make use of limited resources for marketing activities in an environment friendly manner to satisfy the needs of their consumers (Emma and Henrikke). Here both the industry and the consumers are satisfied and achieves the objectives of organization.
Green marketing is not only about marketing of products but it begins from supply of raw materials and lasts till the product reaches end user and at times even more. It is for this concept to ensure that any product or service manufactured and delivered has minimum impact on environment even if it cannot completely avoid its impact on environment. What is to be taken care of by companies is to make sure that they market only those products that are less harmful to environment and natural resources even if it not friendly to environment. For example a resort might be functioning in a very calm place that is really beautiful and it might have been built with out harming environment (Kaman). But it is not possible to avoid pollution of various types caused by people residing there. What can be done is to reduce the impact of such pollutions and other issues that will impact environment.
Though Green marketing evolved during 1975 it is not clearly understood even today. This is why companies find it very tough to deal with this matter. Often they end up in making wrong statements in the name of green marketing and end up in trouble for providing wrong guidance or offer to customers (Emma and Henrikke). As this is a broad concept and is not merely about marketing it is not an easy process to deal with. There are several issues faced by companies in this regard.
Green marketing is associated with several issues that an organization needs to overcome, no matter for what reasons they are adopting green marketing. Most important is that those organizations using this method in marketing need to ensure their customers that through green marketing they are not intending to mislead them. Same is with industry and it is also necessary for the organizations to make sure that their activities do not breach any regulations considering environmental marketing. If a company is using green marketing in United States they will have to meet certain criteria for complying with guidelines of FTC. Any claim of green marketing need to state clearly the environmental benefits, explain what are the environmental characteristics and methods for achieving it, ensure justification of comparative differences, ensure that all negative factors are considered and that only pictures and terms that are meaningful are used (Ken).
Another issue faced by firm is that when they are modifying a product in concern of consumer, they are supposed to content the fact that perceptions of consumer are not always correct. For example McDonald’s replaced clam shells in increased concern of consumers with paper that is plastic coated. Still there is a debate as to which one is more environment friendly. In this case McDonald considered choice of consumer and went for an option that is harmful to environment than their own choice which was friendlier to environment. According to some scientific studies polystyrene is less harmful to environment than plastic coated papers (Emma and Henrikke). A very common issue faced by firms when adopting green marketing is that their attempt to become responsible to environment might result in an action that looks eco friendly today but found harmful in future. For example some company’s in its effort to become eco friendly switches from chlorofluorocarbons to dimethyl ether to be used as an aerosol propellant. But it is found that dimethyl ether though a green house gas can harm ozone layer. At times companies commit wrong decisions with regard to environmental matters with their limited knowledge of science. This is why certain companies like Coca Cola just mention that they are socially responsible but is not explaining how. They are likely to be protecting themselves from any negative remarks in future with regard to their environmental policies if it is found that their method of being sustainable is wrong in future (Lynette and Ike).
Though regulations and decisions of government aim to provide an opportunity to consumers to take better decisions regarding environmental matters or to motivate them in this regard, it is really hard or impossible to address all issues that are likely to cause any harm to environment. This is why guidelines for environmental marketing deals only with few issues like claims of marketing. In order to modify consumer behaviour government will have to develop new regulations. Thus if government try to create regulations for protecting all environmental concerns they will end up in developing regulations in abundance and it can not be made under a single controlling body (Julie and Ann).
If a company is reacting to mere pressures of competition, it is possible that all the followers commit same mistake. For example Mobil Corporation introduced garbage bags made of plastic but biodegradable in nature. This was done to beat competition. Though those bags were biodegradable technically, it was not an easy task under the conditions they were disposed. Company was sued for claims of misleading advertisements. Some efforts like recycling of waste materials will not reduce environmental impact. What is to be done is to adopt methods for reducing waste and market such activities that really can reduce impact on environment (Lynette and Ike). It will be easier to practice green marketing if the concept is clearly understood.
Green marketing is considered as some thing that is associated to advertisements or promotions of products that are environmental in characteristic. It is common for people to associate terms like environment friendly, ozone friendly, phosphate free, refillable or recyclable to green marketing. Though companies often use these terms as part of green marketing it is a broader concept and it can not be applied merely to products or services. For example it is very common to find advertisements of resorts providing eco tourist facilities. Through this they are providing facilities for experiencing nature or some might be operating in a manner to reduce environmental impact (Vasanthakumar).
Green marketing thus involves a broad range of activities and this includes change in production process, product modification, and change in packaging and changing advertisement. Thus advertisement and marketing activities of products is only a part of green marketing. This makes it tough to define green marketing. Several terms like green marketing, ecological marketing and environmental marketing are used with same aim now days. Though this concept was discussed by American Marketing Association (AMA) in 1975 they used the word “Ecological Marketing”. Green marketing came to fore front only during early 1990’s (William and Charles).
In AMA workshop of 1975 ecological marketing was defined as
“The study of the positive and negative aspects of marketing activities on pollution, energy depletion and no energy resource depletion.”
According to this definition ecological marketing is a division of marketing activity as a whole, which examines both negative as well as positive activities along with examination of some environmental issues (Vasanthakumar).
But green marketing needs a more comprehensive definition as it is a much broader concept. But it is to be accepted that the concept is not yet included under a single definition that is accepted universally. Thus there lacks any consensus about the definition of green marketing and it is this lack of consistency that remains as a great issue (Aseem). Polonsky provides a much broader definition of the concept. According to him, “Green or Environmental Marketing consists of all activities designed to generate and facilitate any exchanges intended to satisfy human needs or wants, such that the satisfaction of these needs and wants occurs, with minimal detrimental impact on the natural environment.” (Polonsky). In this definition all the marketing components are present and it is much similar to definition of marketing given by Stanton and Futrell for marketing. According to them marketing involves
“All activities designed to generate and facilitate any exchanges intended to satisfy human needs or wants”.
Thus according to this definition interest of organization as well that of customers is to be protected for both seller and buyer needs to benefit mutually for a voluntary exchange to take place. Further natural environment also need to be protected by minimizing any detrimental impact caused by this exchange on environment. Thus it is necessary that products that claim to be green need to ensure that they cause less harm to environment and not that they are environment friendly. Thus it is for green marketing to make sure that whole process from production to end use reduces any harm on environment even if it can not eliminate any possible harm completely.
Like much familiar concept of marketing green marketing also involves 4 P’s. Place, price, promotion and product constitute 4 P’s of marketing and the same is in green marketing. Along with this people, planet and profits are also included in 4 P’s. Though 4P’s are same there is some difference with the concept (Joel).
Product – Products are to be environmental friendly, causing less harm to environment. Products are considered environmental friendly, when it is capable of saving energy, water and money by causing much less harm to environment. Product development is to be based on green chemistry and marketers can provide with trends in present market for green products to product developers (Joel).
Price – Price considers the aspects of planet, people and profit in various ways. Health of employees as well as consumer is considered during production stage. Profit is increases through value addition in the form of change of appearance, customization, functionality etc. All are done by producing a product that can cause less harm to environment and thus to planet (Julie and Ann).
Place- In green marketing emissions from transport is minimized through effective logistics management and thus reduce carbon emission. For example if a company is producing apple juice it can produce it locally and avoid import and avoid shipping and transportation leading to reduced carbon emission (Joel).
Promotion- In promotion various tools are integrated and this includes advertisements, signage, websites, presentations, marketing methods etc by considering profit, people and planet. British Petroleum claims to use solar power which is a way of considering planet and profit. Indian Tobacco Company claims to use papers that are free of elemental chlorine which is in consideration of people (Julie and Ann).
Green marketing is a holistic process that anticipates, identifies and satisfies the requirements of customers and society in an ecologically sustainable manner. As it is a holistic process all factors affecting manufacture of product or service and its delivery along with process of marketing is to be taken in to account. This means that source of supply of firm, distribution policies, recyclability or disposability of product, pollution management and marketing communications must all fir sustainability requirements. Further more interest and welfare of all identifiable groups and individuals interested in marketing effort and consequences is to be taken in to account. This includes distributor, supplier, consumer, customer and relevant community interest groups of a manufacturer. Sustainability is all about impact on ecology; environment of all activities of marketing or service/product related activities are to be carried out with care with out causing any harm to natural resources for such resources need to continue in future for upcoming and existing products with out decline to any extent (Jill and Paul). But this does not mean that any green marketing activity must not have any impact on nature. All that is necessary is to be careful enough to manage and scrutiny all the activities and aspects to reduce any impacts on ecology and nature.
Thus in this method it is necessary that marketing activities of companies are with genuine concern of impact on nature of inputs like features of design, raw materials that are used for manufacturing products, process of production and outputs like durability, products and disposability. Green marketing is also concerned about the impacts of marketing and products on consumer behaviour like design and marketing, disposing product waste in a method which is ecologically sensitive and encouragement of consumers. Thus it is necessary for profit oriented organizations to take care of consumers ecological interests on future along with their interest to remain profit oriented. This requires that organizations need to take decisions of marketing with care and caution and there needs to have thinking and management beyond regulatory compliance especially when regulations are not capable enough to protect ecology (Emma and Henrikke). Thus in general what is understood is that it is to the impact on natural environment that maximum importance is to be given while planning and applying a marketing activity. Thus in green marketing environment is given highest possible importance than any other factor.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Green marketing has several advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages – With green marketing people and companies are becoming more aware of the need to preserve our environment and natural resources. Each considers this as their personal responsibility and is trying to make some difference. With an increase in this attitude company can build brand loyalty and for this all they need to do is execute marketing tactics. If a company is able to target right audience through effective green marketing it can make great difference (Ken). Green marketing provides brand image for a company. Further company stands out in market from its competitors. Through green marketing companies are promoting responsible and thoughtful image. This has an impact on customers who are not even concerned about environmental issues. With green marketing products of a company can claim several aspects in their marketing other than style, durability, low prices which is stated by every one. Those customers who are environmentally concerned will make sure to buy your product. Neutral customers can also be attracted and they will feel environmental benefits as an added advantage over competitors (Ken).
Disadvantages – One of the biggest disadvantages that green marketing can cause if on the reputation of company when it is found that the product is not the same or lacks some environmental concern as demanded by company. Company might loss consumer loyalty. Green marketing is an expensive process for the company as it is very tough to get certified as green. It is very tough to get environmental certifications which are to be given by various authorities like government, trade associations, consumer groups, industry associations etc. They will require that the product meets certain standards with energy use, recyclability or efficiency of product or service. It might be very difficult to meet these standards at low prices. But it is necessary to obtain official certificates to gain customer acceptance (MARTIN).
Green marketing is a long process and to be certified green a company needs to maintain various aspects at various stages of production and distribution. This is a very complicated process if not understood and practices effectively. Even after so many years consumers as well as organizations still remain suspicious about this aspect. It is only with certifications that a consumer can make sure of the green concept of a product and this might become a very expensive process for the company. Further more companies need to be careful in adopting eco friendly processes for some considered environmental friendly today might turn just the opposite after some time. To claim environmental friendliness it is wiser for a company to gat a green policy practiced in the company through out the process of production and operations. Any thing associated to environment is considered as part of green marketing by consumers. In order to avoid negative connotation of green marketing it will be better to use other terms.
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