Archive for June, 2010

Is Eco Branding Just Green Washing?

June 16th, 2010

These days you won’t just find eco shoppers in Bodyshop and buying wicker baskets in specialist boutiques, because eco shopping is fast becoming a mainstream activity. Whether it’s buying any of the 4500 Fairtrade certified products or eco furniture for your eco home, more and more people are making greener buying decisions.

The growing environmental awareness amongst consumers is also affecting how brands are marketed. Many are now rushing to promote themselves as environmentally responsible to appeal to today’s eco conscious consumer.

But whilst the efforts of companies to reduce their carbon footprint should be applauded, there’s a risk of eco branding becoming abused as a cynical marketing ploy.

Examples of eco branding

Innocent Smoothies is the poster child when it comes to eco branding. Its website, product labels and popular newsletter all reflect its eco conscious approach to business. Being green is an important part of everything it does. So when people choose an Innocent milkshake they’re not just buying it because of the taste but also due to the positive associations that go with it.

Another great example of an eco brand is howies clothing, which makes all of its clothes from eco textiles, such as organic cotton, Merino wool and recycled cotton. Eco fashion ranges might now be sold on the High St, but Howies have been flying the flag for eco fashion since 1995. When people buy a howies T-shirt they’re making a statement about their environmental beliefs as much as they are about their sense of style.

Ben and Jerry’s ice cream is a particularly popular eco branded product. The next time you’re enjoying a tub watching a movie in your eco home you can feel more relaxed knowing you’ve made a green buying decision.

In recent years the eco movement has been joined by larger companies launching green offshoots to their main operations. Currently the UK’s green trend setters include Marks & Spencer’s ‘Plan A’, General Electric’s ‘Ecomagination’ and BSkyB’s ‘Carbon Neutral’.

The risk of ‘green washing’

Whilst the number of companies adopting a greener outlook is heartening it has to be taken with a note of cynicism. In 2007 the Advertising Standards Authority issued a warning to consumers that some of the green claims being made by brands in their advertising might not be genuine. The ASA’s warning came after it took action against a number of car manufacturers because of their shaky ‘clean technology’ claims in their marketing.

Recently Nestle declared that its four fingered Kit Kats were to be made from Fairtrade cocoa in 2010. With Nestle arguably the most boycotted brand in the UK (due to their controversial baby milk marketing) many of its critics have dismissed its decision as merely a marketing ploy.

But in this day and age of transparency and information sharing, eco conscious consumers are unlikely to be fooled for long. Being authentic and honest is intrinsic to being ethical and eco conscious.

So the next time you leave your eco home to go shopping, consider how your buying choices can influence more brands to be more environmentally responsible and eco conscious.