Next to Come: New Eco-Friendly Developments for the New Year of Change

With the winter holiday season rapidly approaching, this week I would like to discuss some timely new green marketing developments ready to be launched for the New Year. Times Square is globally one of the most notable and recognized locations for bright lights and over-the-top advertisements and billboards. In 1906 the section directly around Times Square in Manhattan was dubbed "The Great White Way" by the New York Evening Telegram, due to the fact the city is lit up by advertisements and bright store lights at night. On December 4th Ricoh is building the first ever green billboard in Times Square, across the street from the where the ball will be dropped on New Year's Eve. I found the announcement of this event on an interesting blog post titled "New York City Goes Green with an Eco-Friendly Billboard this Holiday Season." I found another interesting blog that addresses popular bamboo advertising tactics, and the potential overuse, titled "How Beneficial is the Bamboo Boom?" . I have linked to each of these blogs where my comments may be read in context, but for convenience I have also posted them below.

"How Beneficial is the Bamboo Boom?"

The use of Bamboo is a very significant topic, especially right now. I am glad that you address the serious environmental implications of using bamboo in a time where we see many advertisers and marketers “going green”, and many new products being environmentally friendly because they are bamboo. I have recently posted a blog about how the fashion industry has turned to using bamboo in some clothing lines. Another interesting current use for bamboo is physical advertising stands. There are many companies that are dedicated to selling inexpensive advertising options through what are known as eco-friendly bamboo stands. It is interesting to note that bamboo can be grown essentially with little to no chemicals or pesticides. In this sense bamboo is a very environmentally friendly option in terms of farming. However, you point out that in the production process many chemicals are used, which adds to the carbon footprint of using bamboo. Furthermore, your quote from Jim Bower that, “clearly, the green status currently accorded bamboo products needs serious re-evaluation” is very relevant. It is important to know how the resources are being recycled and reused after production. The companies that are promoting bamboo advertising stands do not reference any of this information, which leads one to think they are not wholly earth friendly. I am glad that you address both sides to this issue. Do you think that it is possible that some marketers are overusing bamboo in their efforts to go green? Furthermore do you think that there are other marketing implications that can be used with regard to bamboo? Personally, I think the use of bamboo for advertisers can be environmentally friendly; it just cannot be overused in a way that is misleading to the consumers being sold products.

"New York City Goes Green with an Eco-Friendly Billboard this Holiday Season"

This is such an interesting and relevant topic for the upcoming 2009 year of change. New York, especially Times Square is commonly known for their dazzling advertisements and billboards that light the streets for “the city that never sleeps.” And what is so interesting about the advertising that takes place in New York is that it sets trends and provides the framework for future campaigns to come. These timely developments from Ricoh we can only hope will set the stage for more green billboards and eco-friendly advertising. It is very interesting to note that the company has decided to take such a highly visible advertising space. The billboard is located directly across the street from where the ball will be dropped on New Years Eve, and with no back up generator, the company is investing a lot of money and assuming a lot of potential risk. With such a highly visible spot, blank ad space is an advertiser’s worst fear and liability. And with unpredictable weather, there is no way of predicting if the billboard will go blank, and if it will, for how long. I did some further research on the details and specifics of the project to find that there have been no specific numbers declared, but the advertisement has been purchased for a three-year spot for potentially six digit monthly fee. This is a high price to pay for such a risky investment, even if thousands will be saved due to energy costs. Furthermore, will the company be willing to invest in more green billboards across the nation? Since this billboard is green, it is powered by floodlights and will not have the same eye-catching appeal that most all other advertisements or billboards in New York have. Advertising is a particularly competitive field when it comes to visuals, especially with billboards, and one must have a competitive edge in order to stay in the market. When the initially excitement of the “first green billboard” is gone, how do you think the visual appeal will retain customers’ attention? I think that this was a bold and risky move; however, I think it is a step in the right direction, and others will follow.


Is Wal-Mart Really Going Green: In Jeffrey Hollender We Trust

I have discussed in previous posts that with the craze for everything organic, companies and brands are collaborating marketing tactics and teaming up to meet the demand for environmentally friendly products. This common practice, when used appropriately and ethically, has yielded profitable results as well as received praise from consumers and environmental activists. It is interesting to note, however, when collaborative efforts raise controversy and stir debate. In that spirit, an interesting and timely move has been made between Seventh Generation, a leading brand in green household products, and Wal-Mart, a big box supercenter. This past weekend, Wal-Mart has extended its business model and launched a new retail concept called Marketside, which consists of four small stores (10,000-12,000 square feet) located in Arizona. Each Marketside store is dedicated to providing natural and organic offerings and will be operated and staffed independently of Wal-Mart, yet is a fully owned subsidiary of Wal-Mart. These stores are approximately 10,000-12,000 square feet and will be dedicated to natural and organic products and offerings. This new retail format comes as no surprise to consumers as Wal-Mart has made several attempts to eradicate harsh feelings towards the corporation and brand as a whole. However, it does come as a surprise that Seventh Generation is joining this movement in that CEO Jeffrey Hollender (see right) has made public statements that he will never do business with Wal-Mart, or at least not until hell freezes over. While Seventh Generation products will not be sold at Wal-Mart supercenters, they will be available for purchase at these four Marketside stores. We may look at this move with some skepticism and fear, and for good reason, but I have to wonder whether it is purely cynical to question that Wal-Mart may actually be going green.

Wal-Mart has received much criticism towards its labor practices, work hours, pay rates, aggressive market entrances that wipe out small businesses, environmental unfriendliness, and the list goes on. There are also those who swear by Wal-Mart and will continue to be devoted shoppers regardless; the debate over whether Wal-Mart is good or evil may never stop. And the sudden change of heart from the well-liked and trusted Hollender, who has made the long-anticipated decision to engage in business with Wal-Mart, has raised some eyebrows. We can trace the beginning of these friendly relations between Wal-Mart and Seventh Generation to the Wal-Mart Sustainability Milestone Meeting, when Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott announced innovative plans to progress Wal-Mart's sustainability initiatives. These included selling greener products and local foods, and more efficient supply chain management which yields less waste. While not fully convinced, these efforts had traction enough to catch the attention and hope of Hollender. In Hollender's blog post titled "Whirl-Mart: Back In the Belly Of the Jolly Green Giant" he states, "I am exhilarated. I am watching the Jolly Green Giant bend down and pick daisies rather than run blindly across the field crushing all in its path. I am hopeful, glad to have come, and ready to provide any and all with advice". Hollender's optimism towards Wal-Mart and its business plans may in fact prove to be a good thing. 

In Hollender's recent blog entry Has Seventh Generation Sold Out by Working with Wal-Mart? he discusses the reasoning and logic behind the move to sell Seventh Generation products at Wal-Mart Marketside stores. He acknowledges that Wal-Mart has made improvements and changed for the better. They are currently the world's largest buyer of organic cotton, have energy-conserving stores with wind turbines and solar panels, use more efficient shipping methods, reduced "high-risk violations" by forty percent, as well as increased the amount of women in ranking position by forty percent. He notes that Wal-Mart's sales record from 2007 shows that they are "almost single-handily leading the switch from incandescent to energy efficient lighting", as well as have transformed the entire laundry detergent industry. For all those skeptics out there, these are no small feats. I would like to note that Hollender uses a tweaked version of Reagan's axiom "trust, but verify" as a model for this business relationship and we can rest assured he will hold true to this.

Does Hollender truly believe Wal-Mart has changed, or is the potential profit of a capitalistic maneuver too tempting to resist? Hollender is not only a well respected and praised CEO, his company has received awards and recognition over the course of his reign. In 2002, Seventh Generation received the Socially Responsible Business Award, which recognizes companies that have excelled in socially responsible business practices, marking the beginning of the company's acknowledgment in the eco-friendly realm. Since then Seventh Generation has received a Sustainability Award from the Alliance of Sustainability, a Social Capitalist Award, and a Customer Excellence Award in Environmental Stability, to name a few. This year Jeffrey Hollender was awarded the Entrepreneur CEO of the Year by Corporate Responsibility Officer magazine. Furthermore, Hollender asks for our understanding. In his blog he observes, "I realize this isn't going to make me a more popular guy, but I also believe -- to the core of my soul -- that it's the right thing to do". Even if Wal-Mart is not trusted based on its past actions, it is a year to believe in change and the opportunity for good, and we can trust that Hollender has made this decision with benign intent.


Hotels and Lodging: Eco-Friendly Renovations or Greenwashing?

In a previous post, I explored some environmentally-ethical controversies within the fashion industry. The main issue I pointed out was that even if designers are not using animals as materials for their next clothing line, is it really fair to send exotic animals down the runway as a part of their fashion show. When it comes to marketing, it is important to know where the ethical line should be drawn. This is crucial for the consumer because marketing tactics do not want to be seen as misleading. This week I explored the blogosphere in search of what criteria marketing efforts go through to ensure they remain ethical; more specifically to avoid the practice of "greenwashing". Greenwashing is the practice of claiming environmental responsibility without backing up this claim. The term was coined by New York environmentalist Jay Westerveld in response to the hotel industry's efforts to go green. These efforts included displaying green placards, reusing guest's towels, and claiming overall environmental friendliness, which in fact proved to have little to no legitimacy and was used purely for profit. While we still see greenwashing today, and will continue to in the future, there are many hotels that are trying to combat this bad reputation by upholding to standards set by hotel search engines, the six sins set by TerraChoice, and the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED rating system. One interesting post I found titled "PKF: Green building operations favorably impact asset value" discusses how true profit can emerge from legitimately making hotels green. However we notice in this post that profit is the primary concern. On a more earth-friendly note, I found a very interesting post by Kerri titled "Touting eco-credentials is hot marketing trend for hotels", which discusses how one couple dedicated to helping the environment truly created a green bed and breakfast inn.

"PKF: Green building operations favorably impact asset value"

This is a very interesting and informative post. I think the concept of greener hotels has been on a lot of owners minds for a while, and the prospect that new developments will undergo soon is a comforting thought. I find this post particularly interesting because it seems that there are only positives for company managers and owners to make their hotels greener. The problem that I see, which is a problem with all reconstruction for greener purposes, is timing and profit or funding. When it comes to new developments and renovation, the eventual return on investment needs to outway the costs. With the information you propose this deems true, however owners and investors will not see these returns for some time. That is where a huge drawback lies. Furthermore with the rising cost of fossil fuels, hotels will inevitably need to switch to alternative energy sources in the future, so why not now? I find the quote from Bose, “For every dollar you can add to the bottom line of a San Francisco hotel, more than $11 is added in value,” very interesting. This is definitely incentive for greener renovations, even if they will not immediately be seen. Another problem that I could see being a drawback is that state of the economy. The dark shadow looming over consumers disposable income means that there is a lot less vacationing and a lot less hotel room spending. Furthermore, with the high costs of renovation, there seems to be a lack of that extra push to get eco-friendly changes underway. Another issue that is very relevant to hotels and environmentally friendly actions is the idea of greenwashing. It is comforting to know that Bose claims that “in contract negotiations with companies, consortia and government agencies for all of their travel and meetings business, hotel operators are being asked not only to confirm that they use sustainable business practices, but to prove it by naming the awards and certifications they have earned.” It is time that we can move on to a greener world and hopefully the hotel industry will follow suit.

"Touting eco-credentials is hot marketing trend for hotels"

Thank you for your interesting and lively post. I am glad to see that there are true eco-friendly efforts being made, and success that follows. This couple whole-heartedly seems to believe in the environment and this shines through in the work they have done with their Bed and Breakfast. It seems that in order for a company, brand, or in this case lodging, to exercise authentic green practices, the brains behind the mission must genuinely have the environments best interest at heart. I find your main argument very insightful as well. Not only is green marketing a profitable tactic for marketers, it has come to the point where flaunting what you call “eco-credentials” is even more profitable. With consumer skepticism and the prospect of greenwashing seemingly everywhere it is no surprise that consumers want to know whether or not green marketers can back up their claims with legitimacy. I would like to point out that the Pinehurst Inn have every reason to be legitimately green, as you have pointed out. With the combination of tactics these owners are instilling it makes you wonder why other inns are not reaping the benefits of going green. It is environmentally friendly, cost saving in the long run, sustainable, and appealing to the modern day eco-friendly consumer. One question I would like to raise is about the rating system. The Pinehurst Inn is rated by the Wisconsin Travel Green rating system. When I looked into this it seems that it is voluntary, and as you noted “self-reporting.” Furthermore, there is a fee that one must pay in order to be rate. This seems a little bit of a skeptical source to receive a rating from, however the Pinehurst Inn holds true to what makes a hotel green. Do you think there is any reason to question the legitimacy is the credentials seem a little flaky, even if the experience at the hotel felt green?
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