Traditionally organisations have centred their efforts around manufacturing products, selling goods and services, reducing expenses, abiding by the law and promoting good public relations. An increasing number of organisations are now looking at ways to reduce their environmental footprint including using green marketing. Green marketing can be characterised as any type of activity that is designed to encourage consumers to purchase products and services that have minimal harmful impact on the environment. In the past green initiatives have generally been compartmentalised rather than being organisation wide, however, now many companies providing environmentally friendly products also adopt green production practices and eco-philanthropy. Companies that do use green marketing generally have one or more of the following change drivers; they believe they have an ethical obligation to become more socially responsible, they see it as an opportunity that can be used to achieve organisational goals, waste disposal costs force a change, competitors’ environmental initiatives pressure the industry to change and/or government regulation force them to become more ethically minded.
Green initiatives undertaken by companies may include; altering existing products to be less harmful to the environment, designing new product lines targeting environmentally concerned consumers, changing the organisational culture to ensure that ethics are integrated into all aspects of the business and repositioning existing products without changing them. In the eighties when green marketing first became popular, some organisations exploited consumer ignorance by changing their marketing claims without altering their products or production processes. This reflected a classic sales orientation, there was limited product development and little market research undertaken by businesses to better understand consumers needs and responses. When research was undertaken it usually focused on identifying the green attributes of existing products, rather than seeking more environmentally friendly alternatives. Once gaps in corporate behaviour and marketing claims became known to the public, consumers boycotted the offending companies. The negative publicity generated had an impact on consumer confidence in green marketing claims and research shows that many consumers are unsure whether to believe many ‘green’ claims. This consumer scepticism and greater scrutiny of companies advertising environmentally friendly initiatives may be the reason that many companies that now undertake green marketing activities do not always advertise the fact.
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