There is a common misconception regarding the terms ‘Ecological Marketing’ and ‘Green Marketing’. A lot of people are misinformed and thus think that these terms are synonyms and can be used interchangeably, when in actual fact their central motivation is entirely different.

What is Eco Marketing?

By the 80’s and 90’s issues such as ‘Global Warming’ were widely accepted so marketers began to reform their practices as a result of the acceptance of the ‘ecological crisis’. Many People started to believe that being environmentally friendly was the moral norm, passing a sense of moral responsibility onto the organization to educate the consumers. This resulted in a drastic change of perspective in which firms began to promote and modify their processes in order to minimize environmental impact.

In addition to educating consumers on how to reduce their CO2 emissions, ice-cream manufacturer Ben & Jerry’s have shown true interest in promoting their environmental stance as a company. In 2005, they launched their campaign ‘Lick Global Warming’. On Earth Day, they gathered in Washington D.C and shared 90 pounds of their ‘Baked Alaska’ice cream with Greenpeace advocates, to protest against the drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Likewise, beauty product retailer The Body Shop prides itself on manufacturing ethically produced beauty products inspired by nature. The company has its own Body Shop Foundation, dedicated to the pursuit of environmental and social change. Moreover, the company’s beliefs are so deeply ingrained in their business mission, that they have refused to enter China’s $32 billion beauty market, due to the country’s compulsory regulations on animal testing.

The Keen Green Consumer

Since the conception of Eco Marketing, there have been significant changes in consumer behavior. In a 1992 study of 16 countries, more than 50% of consumers in each country indicated they were concerned about the environment [Ottman 1993]. But as demands changed, many firms began to see these changes as an opportunity to exploit consumers. Companies began using green marketing to mislead them in an attempt to gain market share, resulting in firms making false ‘ecological’ marketing claims known as Greenwashing.

[Greenwashing is] the phenomena of socially and environmentally destructive corporations, attempting to preserve and expand their markets or power by posing as friends of the environment.
– CorpWatch

What is Green Marketing?

Green marketing is entirely consumer driven. It seeks to target a market segment, more specifically the psychographic segment that is looking to buy organic or fair-trade products and/or services. For instance, McDonald’s stepped up their green marketing efforts by replacing clam shell packaging with waxed paper because of increased consumer concern relating to polystyrene production and Ozone depletion. Xerox introduced a “high quality” recycled photocopier paper in an attempt to satisfy the demands of firms for less environmentally harmful products.

Don’t be Fooled – Learn to Differentiate

The multiple benefits of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), have made a useful tool for firms to attract good PR, recruit employees and interest financial investors. In addition to complying with regulations, it gives them a competitive advantage. The problem becomes when organisations, and consequently people, lose sight of why there are CSR regulations in the first place.

There is nothing wrong with a business selling ‘environmentally friendly’ products but that does not necessarily make it socially responsible. There is also nothing wrong with a company using genuine CSR practices to gain a competitive advantage. However, credit should be given to companies that have strong CSR practices as part of their mission statement. Coca-Cola, for instance, has invested money in various recycling activities, as well as in modifying their packaging to minimize its environmental impact. Since this is not their primary marketing selling point, many consumers may not realize how environmentally committed this organization actually is.

So next time you buy a product wrapped in brown paper with a green leaf on it, ask yourself: is this company good at eco-marketing, green marketing or is that just really good packaging design?.