Green Marketing Shakeout in 2008

Pc1201232007 was a breakout year for green marketing.  High visibility marketing efforts from giants like GE and Wal-Mart moved into full steam and buzz around green marketing jumped dramatically. 

David Wigder writes:

…interest in green marketing continued to trend upward in 2007. In fact, according to Technorati Charts, the average number of daily references to “green marketing” in the blogosphere doubled from about 150 per day in 2006 to more than 300 per day during the second half of 2007.

How many times have we seen “It’s easy being green” as a headline?  That may be about to change.

Across the board indicators of a faltering economy are rearing their heads. The subprime housing meltdown and high energy prices are taking their toll and profit reports and stock values have gone downward.

What does this mean for the momentum on sustainability and related marketing?  On the one hand we will likely see scaling back of corporate budgets tied to sustainability which are not perceived as required.  On the other, we may see an increase in green marketing as businesses seek to differentiate themselves in the crowded market.

This may set the stage for more greenwashing.

But the countervailing trend – more substance for ‘real green’ – is also accelerating.  One sign is the proliferation of various indices.  It remains to be seen if these will develop the critical mass to have much impact however.  Another sign is the intervention by the Federal Trade Commission.  After a period of pulling back on enforcement, it appears to be reengaging – looking first at the wildly uneven carbon offset market – in what is slated to be a series of hearings.  If the FTC engages green marketing seriously (something that may depend on what happens in November) this could have impact.

Lastly, there is a “move to quality” happening in some sectors.  This week the Home Builders Association of Northern California announced that they are supporting mandatory green building standards.  The specifics are not yet clear but it is notable that this is happening at all and, more importantly, that they have partnered with the highly reputable green building standards organization Build It Green.

This highlights two other elements which may play an increasing role: certification standards and cross-sector collaboration.  Clorox’s just announced partnership with the Sierra Club on their new non-toxic cleaning products "Green Works and ecoAmerica’s collaboration with The Princeton Review on a forthcoming college ratings initiative epitomize these approaches.

With strong standards and further cross-sector collaboration, the 2008 shakeout could result in a deeper shade of green.

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