UPDATE: This green marketing post was originally published on 16 March 2020 and updated on 12 April 2021.
With Earth Day just around the corner, this is a fitting time to discuss green marketing. Popularity for this earth-conscious type of business promotion is growing in India. There’s a good reason for this: 25% of the consumers in India prefer eco-friendly products.
From recycled packaging to sustainable business practices, all come under the umbrella of green marketing.
Before we discuss the ways you can adopt green marketing strategies for your business, here is a word of caution: beware of greenwashing.
Green marketing is more than just words
Falsely claiming that you follow sustainable practices or doing it in one business area and allowing malpractices in other parts of the business is called greenwashing. It may sound tempting to do but backfires when exposed.
After Coca-Cola claimed to be ‘water-neutral,’ it was charged with contaminating the canals and agriculture plots with untreated wastewater in Uttar Pradesh.
The company’s bottling plant eventually closed due to public outcry.
While Coca-Cola has the money to mount a public relations campaign to offset the damage to its reputation, most small businesses do not. Green marketing is a tool to be handled with care — otherwise it can do more harm than good.
The elements of a green marketing strategy
When it comes to adopting an environmentally friendly tactic, you have a number of options. You have probably noticed a company you do business with, practice one of the options listed here.
1- Green products
A green product is one designed to have the lowest negative impact on the environment throughout its lifecycle. Often these are the products made from recycled materials or with the help of renewable and sustainable resources.
Here are some green marketing examples for products:
- Solar water heaters
- LED lights
- Energy-saving TVs
- Solar speakers
India has several green marketing examples of which it can be rightfully proud. Reva, a Bangalore-based car company, was the first in the world to commercially release an electric car — a trend we see embraced around the world.
But, you may not be in the business of manufacturing such products and still want to practice green marketing. Here are other green marketing strategies that you can use to create an earth-friendly image of your brand.
2- Green packaging
Startups and small businesses are waking up to the concept of green packaging. For example, you might have received your food in cardboard boxes instead of poly bags and plastic boxes from Swiggy and Zomato.
Green packaging is any packaging that is light in weight yet still has high physical strength. Any materials that break down naturally (i.e. biodegrade) are also looked on favourably by consumers. The major parameter of eco-friendly packaging is its insignificant carbon footprint.
So far, five Indian states have banned single-use plastic including straws, plastic plates and spoons or forks.
3- Green promotion
Marketing mix is everything your business does to promote its products and gain customers. This could include advertising, public relations, direct marketing and sales promotion efforts. These various channels of marketing can be used to share your efforts to boost the environment’s health.
And don’t assume everyone will somehow know you have instituted sustainable business practices — you must tell them often. For example, perhaps you:
- Use organic ingredients only
- Locally source your raw materials (thereby reducing the amount of fossil fuels you use)
- Have solar-powered production units and offices
In promoting your noble efforts, don’t forget sustainable tools such as:
- Using eMarketing instead of paper advertisements
- Replacing plastic bags and dinnerware with reusable or recyclable packaging
- Giving customers the option of email or text rather than postal mail
This can enhance your green image and help your customers feel good about choosing you.
4- Green disposal
Disposal of products is a big problem in India. According to a CPCB report only 27% of the solid waste collected is treated. The rest is disposed of at dumping sites, mainly due to organizational inefficiencies.
A business follows a green disposal strategy if its products:
- Do not contain toxic chemicals or ozone-depleting elements
- Do not leave significant carbon footprints on disposal
- Can be recycled or reused and are not a single-use product
- Are made from recycled material
Check out this list of eight companies whose products use only recycled material for inspiration.
Why go green?
Even the smallest businesses have ample reason to make decisions that positively impact the environment. For example:
Because it makes customers feel virtuous
People being idealistic at heart like motives that sound good. Therefore, to make people take action, appeal to the nobler motives like going green and saving the planet. Help people feel good about themselves when they do business with you.
Consumers across the planet have become more aware of the deteriorating health of our earth and want to contribute towards efforts for saving it. Companies following green marketing are becoming the new favourites of people all over the world.
Another reason why companies adopt green marketing strategies is that their competitors have adopted the same. They too want to adopt environment-friendly strategies in manufacturing and promoting their products or services in order to stay in step with customer demand. In some industries, everyone has to switch to similar strategies due to competitive pressure.
For many industries, the government has set rules and checks to maintain the environment.
The Environment Protection Act, 1986 is the umbrella legislation under which the central government protects the environment. Various industries are color-coded according to the pollution index of each. They are required to take the instructed measures accordingly.
In India, the Green Revolution started in the late 1990s. Since then, consumers have become more concerned about the environment and the health of the planet. They do their research before buying a product and prefer an eco-friendly product.
While many small businesses may think that it is costly to go and promote themselves as a green brand, the reality is that in many cases it is cheaper. Since the companies who follow sustainable practices adopt the 3R strategy — Reduce, Recycle and Reuse — the cost of various processes comes down.
And if your business serves millennials, you should know that almost 75% of them worldwide are willing to pay more for sustainable products.
Consider this as your wake-up call.