According to Experian Research Services, consumers will spend more than $500 billion on products categorized as being better for the environment. With consumers increasingly aligning their purchasing behaviors with their personal values, marketers will want to communicate where their products and services fall on the environment-friendly spectrum—but carefully. When it comes to greenwashing—making dubious claims about the environmental attributes of your product—the public is quick to point out imposters and impose social penalties.
In her keynote speech, “How to Go Green Profitably and Responsibly,” at last week’s DM Days New York Conference & Expo, IBM’s Elaine Lennox offered marketers some advice for relaying their “green” efforts to target audiences via the most honest and responsible creative approach. As vice president of marketing management for the enterprise systems division, Lennox oversees marketing and sales activities for the Rochester, N.Y.-based computing giant—including Project Big Green, which focuses on helping companies reduce energy use in their data centers.
1. DON’T overstate product claims. Stick with a straightforward presentation of your product’s or service’s environmental attributes. For example, don’t claim to be solving the world’s problems simply because you added a couple plant extracts to your product formula or put your product in a recyclable container. The effort is important, but it does not make your overall product or company green.
2. DON’T use vague, unsubstantiated messaging. To help customers effectively evaluate their purchasing options, provide accurate, verifiable information on your environmental assertions—such as resources saved.
3. DON’T forget to work with your internal resources. Strike up a partnership with your legal team, Lennox advises, so you gain a better understanding of how to communicate effectively on environmental issues. And be prepared to run down the facts related to your product claims with other departments in the company; know who to talk to about the different sourcing and manufacturing processes so that you’re working with the truth.
4. DON’T mislead. Your goal is to make your marketing copy accurate, but also understandable by most people. Again, your legal team can be of help here, as long as you make it part of the mission.