February 14, 2008

Blog All Dog-eared Pages: The Green Marketing Manifesto

The Green Marketing Manifesto

Rating: 4 out of 5

Author: John Grant

Year: 2007

Category: Marketing

Publisher: Wiley

ISBN: 978-0-470-72324-1

Since my blogger review copy arrived at the end of November, I've been slowly working my way through The Green Marketing Manifesto. It's not a difficult read, I've just been busy at the day job.

I finished it a week or two back, and figured I'd write up my notes. The current accepted method for doing so is the blog all dog-eared pages technique, which is handy because it means I don't have to pull together all the passages that struck a chord into a coherent narrative. I can just copy bits of the book out and write a sentence about each one.

First though, a few words about the book as a whole.

I've realised that with books, I want to be inspired or challenged to think. Which is probably why "interesting" and "thought-provoking" are fast becoming cliches on this blog - by definition the things I write about or link to are those which have interested me, or caused me to think about a topic; but I still feel the need to point that out. The Green Marketing Manifesto is no exception. Luckily most of the reading was done at home, so only Rebecca got to see me staring into space, deep in thought, clutching this grey and orange tome.

It sets out to provide a guide to the whole range of green marketing activities, from basic steps like setting an example (things like Eurostar's carbon reduction scheme) through to full-blown societal change. To help navigate such a landscape, John has devised a 3-by-3 grid of categories. Each category gets addressed in detail, along with lots of examples of how companies are already taking the initiative in each area.

I think anybody involved in business, which frankly means almost everyone, could benefit from reading this. Although it claims to be about marketing, a lot of it is just about how business can be better for our environment.

And in keeping with the sustainable theme of the book, I'm going to pass it onto a friend so that the message can spread further.

Right, now to the sections that I marked as I was reading...

Page 6:
I'm approaching this as a creative marketer who has long been interested in sustainability and new media, too. How about you, the reader? I think you need to work out your position. 'Are you coming at this from a marketing role or from a green role?' would be my first question. I have tried to write the book to help both sides come to an understanding, but I am a marketer, so that side of the book is necessarily dominant. There will be a difference, for instance, if you work for a values-led little green company or a big company that's trying to be greener.

I definitely wasn't coming at this from a marketing role, although it did coincide with me learning a lot more about marketing for tedium. You don't need to be in marketing to understand what it's talking about.

I think he's spot on with this next point too. Although solving it will be an immense task, we'll also need a lot of new sustainable technologies and products to do so.

Page 45:
But I do have to assume the sustainability hypothesis is true; that it is possible to reduce the damage and still achieve commercial success. Otherwise, green marketing would be an oxymoron.

Page 69:
One idea I have is a scheme to persuade those in the UK who have made good profits on their houses (prices have tripled in the last ten years) to reinvest a small proportion in energy efficiency, double glazing, loft insulation and so on. Research does show that people are willing to pay more for energy efficient homes. And government regulation next year will mean that people have to have any home (for sale) energy efficiency rated. I'm calling the scheme Housing Bloom.

Not sure how this will fare now there's talk of a recession and the general housing credit crunch, but it's along similar lines to my distributed renewables utility idea.

Page 155:
Many have called for a change in the way green is presented culturally, for instance media theorist Sut Jhally. After his polemical attack in a seminal essay on the consumerism (individual, selfish, greedy) he saw as simply the net effect of advertising, Jhally advocated not an exclusion of the seductive and feisty images of advertising from public life, but rather a redirection of the same sentiments behind a better way of life. According to Jhally, we need to 'make the struggle for social change fun and sexy'...

Page 189:
To come anywhere near the targets of - for instance - a 70% decrease in carbon footprints, without a catastrophic decline in economies or (real) quality of life, there are going to have to be some cultural breakthroughs. And with big changes come big entrepreneurial opportunities. The capitalist system means there are fortunes to be made by pioneering green alternatives. For instance, according to a report in the FT, the solar energy sector will grow from $20B in 2006 to $90B in 2010. That's 145% a year. To put that in context, eBay's been growing at roughly 60% a year.

Obviously it's just a prediction, but still, that's huge growth.

Page 206:
It's not just sharing cars and cutting flights that have been rejected. Joel Makower reported on an innovative Electrolux pilot scheme in Sweden to give people free washing machines and then charge them per use. Consumers were offered a machine on a pay-per-use basis (10 Swedish Kronor per wash). This meant that Electrolux could take full responsibility for the product throughout its life, ensuring that it was well maintained and replaced at the best point for a more efficient model, also being able to reuse parts and handle the recycling and disposal. Unfortunately, and executives admitted that it might just have been the way the scheme was presented, there was little public enthusiasm for this scheme.

I think the problem with such schemes is that the public are too used to companies existing just to make profit. As a result there's distrust that the change in business model isn't just a way to make more money from them. And who can blame them when the nearest comparable schemes are things like Gilette's disposable razors?

Page 212:
But we are refinding ourselves in this criss-cross world of six degrees of separation. The traditional pre-industrial culture was very localised. You grew up in a small community and knew your place within it. Modern life became disembedded and you then only knew your place through images of status and aspiration in adverts, sitcoms, films, fashion magazines and so on. The media offered to be your window on the world. But what it showed you was a world of goods, which once bought, would secure you an identity. The same images conspired to make people feel poor (relative to the lifestyles portrayed) in the midst of unprecedented (and quite possibly unrepeatable) levels of human affluence. Through the internet, people are getting back to that 'village' identity; social networks where you can get ideas about how to live and who to be from peers.

It would be good if we could all buy less junk, and maybe the Internet will be our saviour. I'm not completely convinced, but it is the most likely candidate.

Page 225:
I am not just talking about creating wealth for capitalist investors. If that is the sole focus of a business (for instance in a private equity-backed phase) all ethical considerations can go by the wayside. But I do tend to think the business must be commercially successful, for the reasons I have stated. It's about being 'for success', rather than just 'for profit'. Pioneers are never usually in it primarily for the money. If they are, they will often make bad decisions, for instance in terms of planning a business strategy around 'an exit'.

Spot on.

Page 228:
One example is to create a loyalty card for local shops. This scheme has launched successfully in several cities in the USA. In the UK, a new company founded by John Bird (the Big Issue magazine founder) called the Wedge Card launched in late 2006, focussing on London but with plans to extend to other UK and then global cities. They point to the role of local commerce, not just as a service to the community, but as a cornerstone of community; all those chats in deli counter queues, places to sip coffee with a neighbour, the local traders themselves as people who know everyone and take an interest in their lives and wellbeing. The Wedge Card allows you to get discounts and special offers at a whole range of local shops; competing with the big stores' 'loyalty cards' in other words. It also supports local community charities. Wedge is working with the National Council of Voluntary Organisations to sign up members to the scheme. It's a bit of a no-brainer for the charity; it gets a donation for every new member (initially two charities per area will benefit, later, users can pick).

In the past I've wondered whether small shops could compete with the supermarkets in this sort of manner. It's good to see that someone is trying it.

Page 281:
Increasingly, I believe, we will buy direct from other people - not just direct from farmers and producers, but direct from individual people running intermediary sites. The affiliate sales idea has been all the rage in the last few years; the idea that a blogger writing about an area they are passionate about can link to books, resources and stores which are relevant. ... What's revolutionary about this - potentially at least - is individuals marketing to individuals.

I think there's a lot to be said for people buying and selling from each other in lots of small(er) businesses rather than as cogs in big corporations. But given what I'm doing at the moment, I would say that...

Finally, if you want to know more about John's thinking since the book was written, he wrote an update recently on his blog, greenormal.

Tags: green marketing sustainability john_grant

Posted by Adrian at February 14, 2008 10:42 PM | TrackBack

This blog post is on the personal blog of Adrian McEwen. If you want to explore the site a bit further, it might be worth having a look at the most recent entries or look through the archives or categories over on the left.

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sounds like a great book, I'll look out for it

Posted by: Crafty Green Poet at February 25, 2008 01:52 PM
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