Monday, July 30, 2007

Green and Mean

I just had a debate with my housemate about what energy company to go with. Supposidly our current provider is "greener" than the rest. However the thing with power is that it all gets dumped into the national grid so you don't know where the power you are using comes from. Why not just select on price? Why select a power company just because they don't happen to be the one required to operate Huntly?

In the BrandChannel article Best Global Brands: How valuable is green? , they quote Andrew Shapiro of GreenOrder, a strategy and marketing firm focused on helping companies maximize the value of sustainability, as saying “Lots of companies are trying to get on the green band wagon because they perceive it to be a hot issue, and they are putting forward messaging campaigns that amount to little more than ‘we care about the environment too,’ ” he says. “I don’t think those empty statements are going to carry weight with consumers; [consumers] are becoming more educated and savvy about corporate environmental [practices]. They know when a company is making a broad claim that doesn’t have much weight behind it.”

I tend to disagree. I would imagine the majority of people out there don't actually investigate the "Green Claims" made by companies. I recently undertook a research project for a major New Zealand power company on how companies were reacting to the Greenhouse Gas emissions issue. It's amazing to see how many companies have green statements or policies on their website. With a bit of critical analysis, it's also interesting to examine the substance of many of these claims. For many companies it's policies such as installing a new air-conditioning system which will save them tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year - and then calling it an environmental move.

With the growing awareness of environmental issues, companies will continue to green-stamp anything they can to make a quick buck. Whay defines a carbon-neutral power company? What's in our eco-friendly washing powder? For that matter what's so bad about our old dishwashing liquid? Will people take the time to actually try to get answers to these questions, or will we blindly buy anything that makes an environmental claim.

Will companies just be able to say they are green and charge a premium? Will we pay that premium without considering why we are doing so? If we can save the planet this way - great. I'm just concerned peoples good intentions are going to be taken advantage of by smart marketers.

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