Shades of Green Marketing Starting to Fade

Elissa V.

Green WashAdvertising has infested every corner of the media, so it's no surprise that environmentalists chose to use this to their advantage in raising awareness about green initiatives and products. But recent evidence has shown that eco-marketing may not be as effective as people once thought, mainly due to skepticism about the validity of what's being advertised.

"After 18 months, levels of concern on any issue tend to drop off," said Jonathan Banks, business insight director at Nielsen, the market research company, in Britain. "I fear that something similar may happen with this." (Source)

One of the major contributors to this would be the large amount of businesses hopping on the eco-friendly bandwagon without proper credentials or qualifications. Between the mass quantity of ads and their lack of credibility, green marketing has become a liability for those in the environmental movement.

The Advertising Standards Authority, an industry-financed organization that monitors the contents of advertising in Britain, said it had received 561 complaints from consumers about environmental claims made in 410 ads last year. That was up from 117 complaints in 83 ads only a year earlier. - IHT

The European Advertising Standards Alliance, a similar organization to the Advertising Standards Authority, said it has seen major increases in complaints - mainly in response to automotive advertising - from various countries including the Netherlands and Belgium. Consumers, wary of "greenwashing," have recoiled, and advertisers are taking the heat when it comes to exaggerated claims of environmental advantages.

Regardless, there is still a lot of money to be made in green marketing, and the patterns of the industry are changing not just because of complaints, but because of competition. It's no longer effective to simply point out that a business is embracing green initiatives. Advertisers must also show the consumer the unique and powerful ways the business has set itself apart from the rest of the pack, and that is not an easy task when so much of the public is turning a deaf ear to green marketing.

"That's a major problem," says sustainability consultant Peter Knight. "If you don't get partnering between the marketing and the technical people, that leads to some bad messages coming out. The clever companies are making sure there are interpreters along the way. The non-savvy are either not doing anything or relying on marketing people to understand this." (Source)

So it appears it's up to the clever companies to save green marketing from an untimely death. Where's Al Gore when you need him?

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Charlie H (anonymous)

In relation to this topic, I thought you might be interested in the below event hosted by Shell on November 19th:
“The concept of 'sustainability', the use of the term by corporate organisations, and issues around communication have all recently been the subject of debate. Bjorn Edlund’s Webchat will discuss, amongst other things, what Shell means by 'sustainability', whether companies are trying to hijack the issues, and if advertising claims hold water. We are looking for a broad and informed debate and as such would welcome your participation.
To see the introductory video which explores the topic in more detail, to register to participate, and to see more of our work, please visit”

Written in November 2008

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  • Posted on July 29, 2008. Listed in:

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