is the case with Certified Organic, are conducted by
third party organizations.
Communication Vs. Reality
Now that we’ve covered how sustainability planning
works, we can address the principal thesis of this arti-cle… There are many shades of green—from outright
“green washing” (a largely fraudulent effort to position a brand as environmentally and socially responsible) to bona fide attempts at comprehensive reform
by organizations to be as “green” as they can be.
The ethical implications of all of this should be fairly obvious to the observer, but it does not matter what
your actual practices are as long as your communication is transparent and truthful. Bearing this in mind,
we’ve identified six archetypes, ranging from not-so-green to pretty-darned-green, so that you may better
understand how sustainability initiatives are being
implemented and communicated in the marketplace.
Red Marketer. According to the color spectrum,
red is green’s opposite color. Red marketers are those
who absolutely ignore all the principles discussed earlier. These firms are becoming rare in the industrialized
world, but unfortunately still exist in great numbers in
the developing world. These folks have no sustainability plan and do not communicate sustainability efforts.
Green Panderer. A panderer can be defined
as someone who serves or caters to the passions or
plans of others, often to make money. Thus, organizational panderers are those who pay lip service to
green marketing with very little or zero commitment
of resources to actually achieve any true level of sustainability. This type of company may only talk about
green issues to give the impression of its participation
because of market pressure or because it sees a temporary opportunity to make money by so doing. These
organizations are “green washers” only to the extent
that a thin, “green sheen” can be detected. Such an
organization may support a cause in some minor way
that resonates with stakeholders, but that will be the
extent of their commitment.
Green Buffeteer. This classification of organi-
zation refers to those who choose the easiest and
most obvious greening options with no attempt at
transparency or commitment to continuous im-
provement. This shallow effort is slightly more than
that shown by the green panderers but still only
penetrates skin deep into business practices, thus
creating a “green skin.”
Many of the green efforts with regard to these com-
panies are socially responsive or seen to be profitable in
the short and long terms. Increasingly green-sensitive
consumers will easily see past this skin into the true
heart of the organization and will not be fooled for long.
Recycling, conserving water and reducing energy consumption are relatively easy ways to achieve some degree of sustainability without significant commitment,
and the green buffeter rarely, if ever, sets measurable
objectives, which make it difficult to assess results.
Light Green Marketer. These organizations have
strategies to encourage consumers to see a brand that
meets or exceeds all of their expectations. These strategies will normally satisfy many consumers, even those
who are moderately green sensitive. Motivations for
companies to adopt light green strategies range from
market pressures, desire for higher profits and a more
socially responsible image. Efforts by these organizations transcend the green buffeteer’s attempts at addressing the tastiest morsels in that more areas are
addressed. The organization sets measurable objectives across a few areas and endeavors to demonstrate
improvement that can be proven numerically.
Natural Green Marketer. Organizations in this
category are operating in the natural and organic products industry and are committed to making their products as green as possible; however these philosophies
and practices are not always applied to the entire organization. Words such as natural, organic and fair trade
are commonly used in marketing communications.
These companies are willing to sacrifice some
short-term profitability for long-term reputation and
sustainability of the resources needed to operate.
Motivations for the natural green strategy begin to
turn more toward inherent social responsibility values rather than responding to market forces. Such an
organization might make 100% natural products, but
has not necessarily addressed the bigger picture such
as what their suppliers are doing.
Deep Green Marketer. These organizations are
blazing new paths beyond a new frontier. Their strategies afford the most opportunity for organizations to
completely embrace The Green Imperative and infuse
sustainability and social responsibility into all of their
processes, products and policies. These organizations
will be the ones that reap the long-term benefits of
sustainability, reducing costs and expanding the market for their goods and services. Absolute transparency and an unwavering commitment to people and
the environment are musts. No process or product or
partner can be immune from these companies’ efforts
to maximize efficiency and appeal to the global shift
toward environmental and social responsibility. The
primary motivation for such a strategy is ethical and
social responsibility. Doing well by doing good will en-