Many environmental issues are in the spotlight of late. Consumers are increasingly “going green” and are expecting brands to do the same. According to World WildLife Fund (2020) research, up to 80% of Singaporeans value sustainability, but 56% feel that such options are not value-for-money. So, what is green branding or green marketing, and how can brands get a footing in this growing industry?
What is “Green Branding”?
Green branding is defined as “a brand where environmental values constitute the brand essence” (Insch, 2011). In other words, going green is not just a scheme to get more of the millennial consumer market but should be a value of the brand. This value is considered for many aspects of the company, including and not limited to the products, packaging, manufacturing processes and even energy supply for offices.
One great example of a company born out of sustainability ideas is Lush Cosmetics. They handmake most of their products and avoid packaging as much as possible. For items that need packaging, they use up to 89% recycled materials and are very mindful of their energy usage. Other sustainable measures include having 70% self-preserving products (lack of toxic chemicals), ethical sourcing — ensuring that farms use sustainable practices and that workers are treated fairly and recycling bottles (which customers return for an incentive).
Locally, our iconic Marina Bay Sands (MBS) is designed with many green features. Automatic sensors switch off air-conditioning, lights and water supplies when not in use. Rise Restaurant uses herbs grown in their garden to reduce carbon emissions, and rainwater is collected for flushing toilets and for part of the canal supply.
“Green Marketing” Towards “Green Branding”
While not all brands start out sustainably, it does not mean they can’t head in that direction.
A famous brand that praised for its efforts is none other than Starbucks. Starbucks has tried to change the consumers’ reliance on disposable cups by charging for such packaging in the U.K, increasing the use of reusable cups to 5.8%. However, till 2018, only 1.3% of drinks in North America were sold in reusable cups. They are also committed to switching to renewable energy for their outlets and offices.
Another brand that has made some headway with green marketing moves includes Apple. The technology giant powers all their offices and shops with First Solar, a renewable energy source, and encourages customers to trade-in their old mobile phones to be recycled.
Beware of “Greenwashing”
The fight to going green is not always as straightforward, though. Many companies have been accused of greenwashing, which is defined as “the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound” (Investopedia, 2021).
A rather infamous case is that of K-Beauty brand Innisfree. Just last month (April 2021), a disgruntled customer took to social media to highlight the truth over their misleading packaging. Innisfree packaged their face serum with paper wrapping over a plastic bottle claiming that it was a paper bottle. Innisfree has since apologized for incorrect labelling but still considers it a green initiative as the bottle is recyclable and is 51.8% less plastic than usual.
While you may be on the fence about making a verdict on Innisfree, consider how repeated greenwashing campaigns will erode consumers’ trust and reliability of your brand. It is clearly seen in IKEA’s case. Their source of wood was certified under the Forest Stewardship Council as sustainable but recent investigations have shown otherwise. IKEA recently launched a campaign to buy back used furniture for recycling, but consumers are hesitating to contribute.
Green Branding Or Greenwashing?
If you are looking to go green with your business, start with sharing your vision with your employees. Implement small measures such as using energy-saving light bulbs, recycled paper for printing documents and reducing, as well as recycling plastic usage. Deal with green vendors and suppliers but be sure to check their certifications. Switch to green energy providers for your shops and offices.
Going green not only attracts consumers but helps you save costs in the long run. However, be clear that you are not deceiving anyone and are genuinely heading in a green direction. The grey area between green branding and greenwashing can be a very thin line that you do not want to be seen walking at.
Go green or go home.