Editorial

It’s Not That Easy Being Green

By Rebecca Wright | May 1, 2011

Kermit the Frog (arguably the most famous Muppet) sings a popular song about how hard it is to be green. Turns out he’s not alone. Many companies are finding it hard to go green in this day and age of environmental and social responsibility. And consumers are having a tough time with it too.
 
The problem, according to some experts, is that organizing a company’s priorities around a “green” mission is a tall order. Similarly, consumers are finding it challenging to work green into their lives.
 
A report released April 17, five days before Earth Day, said, “Many of the environmental messages are not just failing to close the ‘Green Gap,’ but are actually cementing it by making green behavior too difficult and costly from a practical, financial and social standpoint. Many of the world’s leading corporations are staking their futures on the bet that sustainability will become a major driver of mainstream consumer purchase behavior. Unless they can figure out how to close the gap, there will never be a business case for green.”
 
Published by OgilvyEarth, “Mainstream Green: Moving Sustainability from Niche to Normal” found that most consumers feel green marketing is irrelevant and alienating. Moreover, it said half of Americans think green and environmentally friendly products are marketed to “Crunchy Granola Hippies” or “Rich Elitist Snobs,” rather than everyday Americans.
 
The report also identified a segment of consumers referred to as “Middle Greens”—those consumers who offer the biggest opportunity to create the change the world so needs. But, the report said, “Until green products and services feel normal and adhere to normative pricing, the Middle Greens are unlikely to embrace them.” This segment represents a whopping 66% of consumers, who “are pretty much ignored by marketers,” according to OgilvyEarth.
 
Also problematic, there is a growing sense of skepticism among consumers who just don’t believe companies are being true to their word when it comes to their social and environmental commitments. To counter this, guest author Darrin Duber-Smith lays out a plan for effectively communicating green initiatives to consumers (page 36).
 
At the very least, a green marketing campaign should include truth and transparency. “The key in avoiding ‘green washing’—and the backlash that inevitably comes with overstating your social and environmental commitment—is authenticity,” he said. “Simply changing your logo and brand name for the purposes of exploiting the sustainability trend without a credible commitment and plan can result in major scrutiny and irreparable harm to your brand’s reputation.”
 
I think the other key to success for all involved in the green movement is simplicity. Because whether you’re talking “Green” or “Socially Responsible” or “Environmentally-Friendly” or “Sustainable,” the goal is the same: to make the world a better place. It's that simple.
 
And if that’s not enough for companies and consumers, perhaps some advice from Kermit would help. “When green is all there is to be, it could make you wonder why, but why wonder…I’m green and it’ll do fine. It’s beautiful and it’s what I want to be.” And Kermit should know. His swamp is being ruined by pollution.

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