Green has many meanings. Green can mean fresh. But green cheese is spoiled. A green employee could be a rookie on the job, or a staff member who got sick eating the green cheese. A green bottom line is flush with profits. A green business is environmentally friendly. Of course there is the actual color green. And then . . . there's greenwash. Greenwash or green sheen occurs when a company understands that being green is good for business, therefore markets itself as green without making any real efforts toward being environmentally friendly.
There was a time when a business could probably get away with a mild greenwash for awhile. But we've learned in recent years -- and political campaigns – that if you say something that is provably false, you could find yourself outed on a thousand blogs. Even a local mom-pop shop may find itself the star of YouTube if they promote themselves as being committed to recycling, but the dumpster behind the store reveals otherwise. That's a marketing backfire. In other words, those who are not going to walk the walk, should refrain from talking the talk.
Here are some of the ways businesses indulge in greenwashing.
A recent study by the Grocery Manufacturer's Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers shows that companies that report genuine sustainable practices tend to do well financially. Sustainability, says the report, is great for enhancing your company's reputation. In a press release, Lisa Feigen Dugal, a PwC advisory leader, said, "It's well known that sustainability initiatives can be a great brand and reputation enhancer, but we've discovered they're much more. Positive reporting on these initiatives can enhance a company's bottom line and shareholder value."
Sounds good. But marketing wizards recommend that if you hope to sell your products and services with a tinge of green, start by getting your ducks in a row. Ensure that you are compliant with environmental regulations in your industry. Get independent certification for your claims whenever possible. If you say you are green, you may be inviting attention, so it's important to clean up your backyard, literally and figuratively. The bottom line is, the public wants to believe the claims made about products they like, and in many cases, they are willing to pay more and drive across town to buy them. So smart marketers will make sure that when they paint their businesses green, the green goes all the way to the bone.