Eco-entrepreneurs main drivers of green marketing

Published in Philippine Daily Inquirer, Business Friday, January 11, 2008

Over-consumptive behavior and urban societies bred on convenient disposables; global industrialization and resulting flagrant disregard for the environment and the need to maintain biological diversity; over-population and lack of government safeguards to maintain the country’s eco-balance are some of the major causes of ecological and health issues, deterioration of natural and renewable resources, air and water pollution and contamination. The result is a looming scarcity among future generations of even the most basic resources needed to sustain human life. 2007 Nobel peace prize environmentalist Al Gore, the Greenpeace movement, Earth Day Movement, World Wildlife Fund and many others have since the 1980s fueled awareness for the present generation to take actionable steps to preserve the environment’s natural resources and biodiversity.

Two decades later, eco-entrepreneurs and leaders have responded with environmentally friendly products and services that matches mainstream products and services on price, performance, durability, quality and aesthetics a major turnaround from the first generation of poor performing and very expensive green labels.

How different is green marketing

Green marketing, also called eco- or environmental marketing addresses the needs of consumers with raised consciousness on how their consumptive behavior can affect the environment and use of natural resources. Thus eco-marketers and entrepreneurs develop products and services responsive to the needs of eco-consumers while making certain that these have minimal or no contribution to environmental degradation.

Key to green marketing

Green marketing is unlike conventional marketing and is no mere lip service to environmental issues nor is it just a short-term campaign on environmental preservation. Following are indicators of true-blue green marketing.

Products are designed green. Green marketers offer green consumers the option to choose products designed to be green from the time these were concepts to acquisition of raw materials and production, usage and packaging, even after-use and disposal. For example green products are likely to make use and re-use of renewable, sustainable, recyclable resources and materials; consume energy efficiently; do not or minimally emit toxic wastes in air, land and water when compared with existing options, etc.

Environment-friendly Toyota Prius is the first mass-produced hybrid designed gasoline and/or electric power automobile introduced in Japan in 1997 and worldwide in 2001. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has lauded the 2008 Prius as the most fuel-efficient car sold in the U.S. Priced at nearly $25,000, the Prius shuts down the gasoline engine and runs on battery pack at low speeds, when stopped, during reverses, at descending speed thus, decreasing fuel consumption.

Naturescast is an innovative line of earth-friendly home and architectural products made from nature’s scraps. Handcrafted using agro-forest wastes such as fallen twigs, dried leaves and  barks.  Naturescast is biodegradable and renewable and owns patents across Europe, USA and Asia.

A pioneering concept of Filipino eco-entrepreneurs and environmental advocates Pete and Catherine Delantar, Naturescast green home furnishings including tables and furnitures, lightings, shelves and wall art, decorative accessories, etc. is carried  in  Europe and the United States by exclusive retailers like Smith & Hawken, American Signature, Villeroy & Boch AG in Germany, Neiman Marcus andCrate & Barrel in the US, Antonio D’ Erasmo of Italy, Nieukoop, to name a few.

According to Catherine, NaturesCast answers a demand by the environment-conscious consumers for eco-friendly products, without sacrificing style and design.  She explained that the idea for Naturescast came about one afternoon when the company conducted a clean and green drive among its employees in Compostela, Cebu. While looking at the mountains of dried leaves, twigs and forest scraps gathered after the activity, Pete and Catherine came up with the concept for NaturesCast.

We thought, there must be some use for these heaps of garbage,Ó recalled Catherine. The sight of so much garbage reminded us of how we are continually depleting our natural resources. And there are times when I worry there will not be enough resources for our children.  Sometimes, you come to a point when you wonder what you can do to slow down the consumption of our natural resources.Ó

The environment-conscious couple found the answer in NaturesCast. Together, they developed a method for transforming these castaways into functional objects. Pete explained that these scraps are shredded through a special machine and, using a water-based binding ingredient, are shaped into the unique and functional forms designed by local artists.

Another display of Filipino ingenuity in green products comes from the underprivileged women of Quezon City who are under the auspices of the BH  (Bagong Henerasyon) Foundation, a non-profit organization with deep commitment for women empowerment and environmental sustainability, managed by Councilor Bernadette Herrera-Dy and recently awarded the reputable National Kabalikat Recognition by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). The women under the BH Foundation are able to make fashion bags recycled from unsold newspapers and magazines. The bags have made their way to parts of Asia and Europe and have become a source of sustainable livelihood and development for these women.

Control stays with consumers but Invite them to take simple actions and choose. Gone are the days when eco-marketing campaigns resorted to fear, threatening and pessimistic tactics. Eco-marketing today, is grounded on informed choices.

Patagonia, originally a sister company to Chouinard Equipment that sold equipments and tools for Alpine climbers, is one of the world’s renowned environmental-preferred outerwear catering to Alpine and outdoor enthusiasts of quiet sports that do not require a motor Ð climbing, skiing, snowboarding, surfing, paddling and trail-running. Its mission of environmentalism began when its founder Yvon Chouinard who started climbing at age 14 realized that climbing equipments eroded and had serious effects on natural wilderness. Patagonia markets only organically grown cotton fabric and outerwear and in its first decade had sales of about $150M in the United States, Japan and Europe. It is outerwear fashion that caters to consumers who prefer environmental-friendly products. Patagonia uses only environmental messages in its marketing communications campaigns, in-store catalogs and remains to be an active supporter and advocate of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Aim for voluntary simplicity buyers (VSC). These are consumers who believe in material simplicity and conservation over conspicuous consumption; who espouses scaling down or humanizing one’s living and working conditions while advocating small is beautiful over big is better; and who believes in the use of appropriate technology over automatic application of high technology; realizes the importance of ecological awareness, protection and preservation; spirituality and personal growth. Because it is a mindset, voluntary simplicity buyers can come from different economic groups.

VSCs are attracted largely by products and services that are durable or have longer shelf life while having several benefits; clean, organic and naturally grown food free of artificial preservatives, fumigants, drug residues, etc.; recycled and reusable green products and packaging, etc. They read labels, take preventive measures and are willing to shift and adopt a new brand perceived to fit the value they espouse.

Tom’s of Maine is a line of all-natural, plant and herb-based personal care products including toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, mouthwash, soap, shaving cream, founded in 1970 without artificial or chemical ingredients and preservatives, are not tested on animals and come in recycled paper board packaging printed with soy-based inks. The business that thrived serving consumers that believe that Ã’people and nature deserve respectÓ and who would patronize only products for personal and home use that did not harm the environment, has grown from a $5,000 loan from a friend in 1968 to a nearly $100M company in 2007 resulting from a strategic partnership with Colgate Palmolive.

Have green products certified.Third party certifications from reputable green bodies help provide consumers an assurance of the product’s green integrity. There are worldwide eco-seals and country-issued seals. Whichever eco-seal is used, eco-marketers must ensure that the certifying body or organization is recognized and respected by environmentalists. With the seal comes the obligation to educate consumers in which criteria or measure was the seal extended. It pays to educate the consumers on the nature of the eco-seal.

One of the first Filipino-designed products to obtain an eco-seal from Australia is the organic and natural food supplement ABW Leaves of Life made from Alfalfa, barley and wheatgrass. Organic eco-seals are given to food produced by farmers without using traditional pesticides, fertilizers, radiation and observe conservation of soil and water. Organically grown in Australia and certified by the NASAA (National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia), ABW Leaves of Life is a powerful antioxidant and internal anti-ageing food supplement that neutralizes damaging free radicals to the body’s internal organs resulting from the lifestyle and food one takes; while increasing energy during the day and providing deep sound sleep at night.

Green marketing leads to an alternative lifestyle but is borne out of the passion and dedication of eco-entrepreneurs and leaders who respect the environment, the richness and biodiversity of natural resources and a mission to preserve nature’s resources for future generations to come.