Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Interview by Radikal (Turkish Newspaper)

I dont know if they would use all of this, but here is my current thinking expressed as answers to the questions they sent me:

Questions for John Grant

1. I would like to start with your description for ‘green marketing’. How do you explain green marketing a man/woman who is unaware of it?

Green marketing is marketing which has dual objectives; green objectives and business objectives. An example of a green objective is reducing greenhouse gas emissions (but there are many others). It’s a very broad category, ranging from the activities of GE (Ecomagination which is a $10B range of low carbon technologies) to Levi’s producing Eco jeans made of organic cotton.

What it isn’t is activities which only have a business objective (for instance if people think they can use a green image to sell something which is in truth pretty standard) or activities which have only a green objective (like a charity campaign).

It is a big trend in the US and UK. Not least because climate change, peak oil and other issues threaten to destroy our quality of life and security. And companies, consumers and governments are naturally keen to do something in response.

2. Can you draw a historical line for green marketing issue? When did it occur? And are there any milestones that accelarate the process?

There was a green marketing boom in the late 1980s, which was the era of Body Shop and ‘ozone friendly’ and so on. It then seemed to collapse. The current boom really got going in the last 2-3 years, triggered by the public awareness around things like Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” film.

3. Do you give a roadmap, in your book, about how to be ‘green’? What are the main ‘musts’ of green marketing. Can you give some examples…

There is a map in the book of different types of green marketing and many examples. It is can mean different things in different markets and for companies of different sizes. There are green consumer products (eg the Toyota Prius), green services (eg the Green Tomato cab company) green retailers (eg M&S and Walmart), green financial services (ABN/Banco Real), green fashion (eg Howies), green corporations (eg Newscorp going ‘carbon neutral’), green travel (Eurostar), green behaviour change campaigns (Ariel asking customers to turn their washing machine thermostat to 30 degrees), green sponsorship (the Honda F1 challenge) and many more. Green marketing is no less diverse than marketing. İt’s just that thing about having dual objectives – green objectives as well as business ones, that differentiates it.

The basic advice is ‘innovate and educate’. İe first of all develop a greener position in what you do, and then bring your customers with you.

4. Do ‘companies’ really get green? Or they just seem to be green? Do you have some spesific examples for companies?

It varies. İ meet companie who just want to exploit the issue and see it as a trend (I can hardly mention examples of that, but it is common). I also meet companies who seem passionately committed almost to the same level as a green charity; for instance BskyB a leading UK broadcaster seems to absolutely live and breathe the issue, they have done a brilliant job internally in getting their staff motivated as well as in public education campaigns. It’s no bad thing for a business to have a cause – as was argued in the famous business book “Built to Last” – but it does take vision from the top.

5. What about consumers’s perception? How many of people prefering green products or a green style of life? (Such as buying organic stuff, driving less car etc…) What is the role of climate change issues in this process? Because, I guess that people begin to afraid about Earth’s future and this is effective on green marketing issues… Or why do you think some people go to the market and buy the ‘green’ one? What is their motivation?

The surveys say the UK population roughly splits into four quarters:
- one quarter are very green, in what they drive, growing their own vegetables, protesting, putting solar panels on their roof

- one quarter are willing to make climate change or similar a primary reason for buying something, for instance a smaller car, if the arguments really stack up

- one quarter will buy green if there is no sacrifice in other terms

- one quarter think its no concern of theirs, something ‘the government’ or somebody else should take care of

The motivations vary across those groups in pretty predictable ways. Selling something as ‘green’ incidently isnt that big a draw because it only really appeals to the top group who are “greens” in the political or social identity sense. “Energy efficient” or similar is a much broader motivation and also ties (for the third group) into saving money.

6. And do you really believe that ‘green marketing’ would be effectual to prevent bad scenarios about the future of our World?

I have no idea. The problems are so big. It would be a shame not to try though?

Some argue that its main effect is creating a climate of public opinion where governments and businesses can force the pace of change and do things which are much less ‘easy’ (for instance that involve people paying more). Others say that it is a movement of people that will save the day. The car industry will never be the ‘turkeys that vote for christmas’ in any hurry but we can decide to drive less in an instant.

7. In Türkiye, consuming organic things is occured as a ‘trend’. What about the rest of the world, is it just a consuming trend?

Organic food is a big trend but in the green world buying local and seasonal has perhaps received much more publicity in the last few years. I think it is partly to do with health, partly as your question suggests a bit “trendy”. Whereas it has actually been shown that in most areas of the world organic farming, and moving away from intensive monoculture agriculture can increase the yield of the land.

8. How is industry’s approach to green markening issue?

Heavy industry is the area which really made a difference the last ten years. Firms like GE, DuPont or so on have made staggering improvements in their carbon emissions and toxic waste. Okay so they started off as “dirty” but its still a record they can be proud of. Compare that with consumer markets and the levels of waste and “crap” are still terrible, in packaging for instance.

9. You have a note on your book as; “Do not put this book in a plastic bag”. How is your daily life? Can you give some examples about your green approach?

I hardly ever fly these days, I come to Istanbul to talk about this issue as a rare exception because I thought the event I am speaking at sounded so worthwhile and I have a long relationship with my publisher here and some good contacts. İ have turned down roughly one trip a month to give keynote speeches in America, China, Brazil, Russia and so on. It was the easiest way to halve my carbon footprint. I also do a lot of the small stuff, I drive a hybrid car, use public transport where possible, turn items off standby, refuse plastic bags, eat less meat and all of that. It’s important to ‘live it’ and not be too much of a hypocrite although modern life makes it very difficult to be as green as I would like to be. Also if you work in this area you are so exposed to worrying information about the state of the world it is difficult to ignore.

10. the changing agenda

I think this year will see a very different set of themes in green marketing. It’s going to be a tough year economically and we will as a result see much more about “green saving” and self sufficiency in the face of high oil prices, food prices (the price of rice doubled in the last 3 months) and so on. The “green consumerism” trend may be much more being about “green realities” and driven by necessity in taxation, prices and people’s fears for their savings and homes. That will probably mean much more is achieved from a green point of view, but it wont be nearly as “cuddly” I would guess.

*** Can you send me a little biography, please?

John Grant is author of The Green Marketing Manifesto. He was a former co-founder of St Luke's the socially aware ad agency. He now operates as an independent consultant. His recent clients include the BBC, Cisco, IKEA, innocent drinks, Microsoft, Unilever. John also advises a number of social ventures and charities.

** And our deadline is Wednesday morning…

Just made it!

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