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Make Sure Your Green Initiatives Don't Leave You Red-Faced

(August 2007) posted on Thu Aug 23, 2007

Incorporating real eco-friendly plans into your company.

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By Andrea Southcott

* Carefully define your target group: The green market is very diverse. 'Dark Green' consumers are those already fully committed to seeking out eco-friendly products. Based on recent studies in Canada and the US, they comprise about 15 per cent of the market. Many in this group are willing to pay more for green products. They tend to be fully engaged with every aspect of how a product is brought to market and will be the first to vent their feelings if a company doesn't live up to its promises. The passion and foresight of this influential group is part of the creative spark behind innovative new products; however, other green groups often find them too extreme and don't aspire to their lifestyle.

The emerging 'Light Green' is quite different. In general, they rarely pay more for a green product and are very demanding with regard to quality. Most of them won't go too far in changing their behavior to be more eco-friendly, so the key is to really understand how new ideas and products can fit into their existing purchase patterns. But the prize for marketers is big, with studies putting this group at about 40 per cent of the population and growing.

* Engage your employees: Many are likely already living their own eco-friendly lives and will have interesting ideas.

* Don't sell on green alone: The Light Green market demands that pricing, design, and efficacy are key to its purchase decisions.

* Keep it simple: Most consumers won't be interested in green solutions that are overly complex or time consuming.

* Embrace a 360 view: Include your supply chain in your green approaches. If your suppliers are not following green practices, it can lead to a potential consumer backlash.

* Don't be afraid to take baby steps: But walk the talk. Green consumers are patient and realize it takes time to make revolutionary changes. The key is to live up to your promises as you make them.

* Be specific: Vague eco-friendly promises will be dismissed as trendy.

Be interactive
Finally, keep in mind that consumers want to participate in the message. The green revolution is thriving online and blog communities have sprung up around many of the hot-button environmental issues. Tapping into these communities may result in exciting new ideas.

With more and more opinion leaders sounding the call on the environment, it's clear the tipping point has tipped and, increasingly, green will be the new mainstream.

Andrea Southcott is president of ad agency TBWA/Vancouver (, a full-service advertising and media planning company. This article first appeared in The Globe and Mail, Canada's largest-circulation national newspaper.