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What Is Green Marketing? Definition and Guide

What is green marketing? Definition and guide

Today's consumers are more informed and discerning than ever about the products they buy. This is certainly true when it comes to evaluating the environmental impact and sustainable practices of the brands they support. That's why many of the world's most valuable and successful companies are pursuing green marketing initiatives.

Read on to learn the definition of green marketing, see examples of green marketing practices, and explore the potential benefits of environmentally conscious campaigns for your business.

What is green marketing?

Green marketing (or environmental marketing) is the promotion of environmentally friendly products, services, and initiatives. More specifically, green marketing refers a broad range of environmentally friendly practices and strategies. Some green marketing examples include:

  • Creating eco-friendly products
  • Using eco-friendly product packaging made from recycled materials
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from production processes
  • Adopting sustainable business practices
  • Marketing efforts communicating a product's environmental benefits
  • Investing profits in renewable energy or carbon offset efforts

Green marketing is becoming more popular as more people become concerned with environmental issues. Indeed, in 2020, more than three quarters of consumers (77%) cited a brand's sustainability and environmental responsibility as very important or moderately important in their choice of brands.

While green marketing can be more expensive than traditional marketing messages and practices, but it can also be profitable due to increasing demand. For example, products made locally in North America tend to be more expensive than those made overseas using cheap labor, but local sourcing and supply chain means they have a much smaller carbon footprint than goods flown in from overseas. For some consumers and business owners, the environmental benefit outweighs the price difference.

Green marketing and LOHAS consumers

The rise of green marketing stems from a growing market segment of consumers who prefer to purchase green products even though they might be more expensive. These consumers are known as the Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) demographic. According to Wikipedia:

“[LOHAS] is a demographic defining a particular market segment related to sustainable living, "green" ecological initiatives, and generally composed of a relatively upscale and well-educated population segment.”

LOHAS consumers are active supporters of environmental health, and are the heaviest purchasers of eco-friendly and socially responsible products. They also have the power to influence other consumers.

With about 100 million LOHAS consumers worldwide, this segment suggests a surging market for green marketing campaigns built around eco-friendly practices and products.

Green marketing strategy

Beyond making an environmentally friendly product, business owners can implement other tactics to create a business strategy that capitalizes on the benefits of green marketing. The following can all be part of a green marketing strategy:

  • Using eco-friendly paper and inks for print marketing materials
  • Skipping printed materials altogether in favor of electronic marketing
  • Adopting responsible waste disposal practices 
  • Using eco-friendly or recycled materials for product packaging
  • Seeking official certifications for sustainability and
  • Using efficient packing and shipping methods
  • Using renewable energy and sustainable agriculture practices
  • Taking steps to offset carbon emissions via investment

Green companies take a long view of their businesses, prioritizing the well-being of the planet and future generations over short-term profits.

What is greenwashing?

Some brands and marketers have attempted to capitalize on consumer demand for environmental consciousness by taking a green marketing approach to products or services that are not necessarily green or sustainable. This practice is known as "greenwashing."

Some popular examples of greenwashing include:

  • Employing unregulated terms like "green" or "natural" to describe products
  • Using the color green or environmental symbols like leaves or trees on packaging
  • Promoting misleading studies or statistics to support an eco-marketing message
  • Portraying cost-cutting measures as motivated by environmental sustainability

Using greenwashing to falsely market your products as environmentally conscious is not only misleading to consumers: it can also be hazardous to a company's health. For example, following its 2015 scandal involving falsified emissions reports for its vehicle, Volkswagen's stock price tumbled more than 50 percent—and took six years to completely recover.

If you plan to build a sustainable brand and practice green marketing in your business, be sure that the claims you're making about your products are clear and factual.

Green marketing FAQ

What is the point of green marketing?

The goal of green marketing is to highlight a company's adoption of eco-friendly or sustainable practices across its products and business operations.

What brands use green marketing?

Examples of popular brands that use green marketing extensively include Starbucks, Patagonia, IKEA, Seventh Generation, Nike, Unilever, and even IBM.

What are the advantages of green marketing?

Green marketing can improve credibility and visibility among conscious consumers, distinguish a brand from its competitors, and ultimately save money through the adoption of less wasteful business practices.

What are the challenges of green marketing?

Challenges of green marketing include the upfront cost of sustainability research and development, ongoing costs of using eco-friendly materials and production methods, and the risks of deceptive or misleading advertising around green efforts.
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