Strategic greening – this time it’s personal

Organisations that are interested in showing they value the environment and responsible business, need to understand green marketing and the relevance of its inclusion in organisational strategy to assist the organisation achieve its business goals.

Learning to share values with consumers is the key to ‘unconditional product love’ where consumers seek a new ‘status currency’ through association and advocating brands which are seen to ‘do good’.

Many organisations are interested in the benefits of strategic greening, however, their approaches to sustainability are tactical with a view to cost cutting and short-term gains.  Through this approach they are unnecessarily exposing their brand to risk, while they also miss out on the potential benefits of genuine strategic greening.

What is strategic greening? Marketing is the organisation’s connection with its customers, with green marketing this requires collaboration with the customer to understand their needs and how these needs are evolving. When an organisation decides to target sustainable markets it instigates a green market strategy. Green marketing is creating consumer value in a way that preserves the environment through all aspects of creating, communicating and delivering products to market.

To achieve this, sustainability needs to be approached from the organisational level. Sustainable development is defined as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations to meet their needs.’  The first step is adopting a mission and vision which show the organisational commitment; to minimise the full life-cycle of their products, production processes and operations and then aligning this to their business goals. In this way all staff have a clear understanding of how and where to direct their efforts. In turn marketing functions address value sought by the new green target market.

Green marketing strategies include organisation-wide processes and brand strategies, which involve innovations to improve the way they impact society and the environment on all levels. When done well, with performance and progress communicated accurately, this is a signal to the green target market that this business is a genuine contender for their loyal custom. This can include product stewardship, adopting eco-efficient power options, reduction of waste output, reverse logistics to maximise efficiency of distribution costs, or promoting services based offerings so that customers can rent and return products. This maintains and enhances relationships with the market, supply chain and distribution channels and can re-establish resource ownership at end of product life.

An organisation in the initial stages of transition to sustainable business practices needs to develop a plan to ensure the corporate strategy embraces this new direction throughout its allocations of resources, at all levels. This needs to be clearly articulated ensuring staff are aware of the customers they serve and the company direction.

Value is the key, from both the organisational and consumer perspective. As an indication to serving green markets, they must show they offer value that goes beyond short-term profit maximisation and are taking steps in improving their environmental performance.  The ethical impacts of business go hand-in-hand with the environmental impacts, and as such are rated highly by consumers seeking mutually shared values by the brands with which they associate and build relationships. This is a valuable reciprocal relationship between consumers and brands, where the business offers real value to consumers who in turn advocate their brand preferences.  The ultimate goal being ‘unconditional product love’ by consumers who feel connected to a brands/products, which mirror their personal beliefs.

In a January, 2014 report by Boston Consulting Group, they stated that, ‘brands should reinforce their authentic reputations with the right brand values, personalities, and communications.’

Trust in mass media messages is at an all time low, as we see through reduced ROI of advertising dollars directed towards these mass campaigns.  While we see exponential rise in the effectiveness of online engagement, this doesn’t mean replicating mass media campaigns across other channels.  Instead it requires a new approach and understanding of the need to share and demonstrate the new value priorities or ‘status currency’ of consumers.

Despite the fact that environmental sustainability is increasingly nominated as a concern for managers and consumers, organisations continue to treat green marketing as a separate strategy to achieve organisational goals. This represents tactical green strategies and brings with it risks and lost opportunities. An organisation’s mission statement describes their fundamental characteristics and purpose, therefore it must integrate ethical and environmental sustainability into their mission. This shows that it shares the values of the new consumer ‘status currency.’ This time it’s personal.


Bridget James
BY Bridget James ON 10 June 2014
Bridget is an environmental consultant and director of Think Green Marketing (