A growing number of companies are touting corporate environmentalism, but customers aren't fooled by this new flood of eco-consciousness in business.
Two recent surveys reveal that consumers' suspicions that companies' green initiatives are more about buzz than about trying to save the planet are all too often correct.
An Ipsos Reid study in September 2007 reported that 70 percent of Americans believe that when companies call a product green, or environmentally friendly, the tactic is typically a marketing ploy.
In February 2008 study by Renegade Marketing, 33 percent of marketers surveyed admitted that generating PR impressions for green initiatives was their main goal in marketing them. Another 25 percent said they went green to reach a specific target, and only 17 said percent they truly wanted to save the earth.
Clearly these results will require marketers to better educate consumers on their green products and rework positioning statements. In the March/April issue of 1to1 Magazine, we reveal three companies that are finding success with their green marketing strategies because for them, the green strategies started at the top and are ingrained throughout the organizations.
One of these companies is Pizza Fusion. Vaughan Lazar, cofounder and CEO, didn't go into the pizza business with profit as a priority. "We were looking to create a socially conscious business that can make a difference" he says. "It was easier to start from scratch, because we could make choices right from the start that adhere to the company's mission."
The company works with environmental organizations to keep up on the latest strategies and technologies. "The big challenge [for many businesses] is that being environmentally conscious isn't affordable, but that's not true." With a little research, he says, companies can find the best deals and best products, and overall there are long-term savings on energy costs.
The chain is positioned to compete against the likes of Dominos and Pizza Hut, but Lazar sees an advantage in a steadfast commitment to the environment and nutrition. "It's not just a fad. We're doing the right thing by the environment and customers' health," he says. The company is looking to develop franchises in markets that already serve healthy and environmentally conscious consumers. Lazar looks for communities that have Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and similar premium grocery establishments. "The benefit is customer loyalty," he adds. "People want this."
Another company, FormStore, a manufacturer of identification cards and digital printing, went green after President Paul Edwards learned about the benefits of his company using an alternative energy source. FormStore now purchases renewable energy credits through the utility company and markets those efforts to employees and customers.
Next, the company hopes to get more deeply involved with the Forest Stewardship Council, which is a stakeholder-owned system for promoting responsible management of the world's forests, whose product label allows consumers worldwide to recognize products that support responsible forest management. By becoming accredited by FSC and receiving its trademark on FormStore products, FormStore hopes to further illustrate its commitment to the environment.
Last, but not least, Wells Fargo is literally asking customers to join the company in its green programs. Customers throughout branches in Washington can sign up for paperless billing, enroll in a green credit card rewards program, or get rebates for buying Energy Star-rated appliances.
So far, response has been positive. "Our goal is to weave environmental responsibility into our corporate DNA and how we support customers and communities," says Mary Wenzel, Wells Fargo's vice president of environmental affairs. "We believe that [green] concerns will only grow over time and that being socially responsible and good stewards of the environment will be a requirement of doing business in this country."