Over the Independence Day week Apple attempted to quietly pull themselves from the EPEAT rating program—a strange net marketing move for a company with so many of its products receiving EPEAT’s Gold Star rating. EPEAT (“Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool”) is a “registry for greener electronics” that rates products for their environmental impact. It is a voluntary program.
Little over a week after opting out, Apple opted back in. Why?
Because they violated principle number one of marketing: “Know your customers.” Apple clients must have put up a pretty big fuss to turn Apple around so quickly.
Even if Apple customers hadn’t taken out the pitchforks and torches and marched to Fortress Apple to voice their discontent, deciding to go Brown now, just as Green Marketing is starting come into bloom would have been a foolish move for Apple in the long run. In this, the hottest 6 months ever recorded in North America, it seems clear Global Warming and other environmental issues are not only not going to go away, but are likely to increasingly drive consumer trends. NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency) recently put out a report in which they linked the probability of these record temperatures directly to Climate Change.
Now is actually the time for companies which haven’t already started riding the Green marketing wave to get on it, not the time to start looking for an exit.
The Benefits of Going Green
It has actually never been a better time to go green and not just because it opens up a whole new marketing strategy in which your company can promote its products. Going Green is increasingly about saving money, as efficiency yields new cost cutting avenues.
Take for example, cloud computing. If you are starting a company today, you no longer need to operate your own server farm; you can borrow space on a cloud computing company’s servers, a strategy which simultaneously lowers your carbon footprint while at the same time reducing start up and continued operation costs.
It reduces your carbon footprint because cloud computing is like carpooling instead of driving alone to work: you share the energy costs with other companies. It also helps your bottom line because you no longer have to buy the equipment, rent the facilities, hire the maintenance techs or worry about internet security: these costs are passed on to the cloud computing company which will probably handle them better anyway since these are their central concerns. Your organization is in turn freed up to focus on your main concern, whether that is selling paperclips or distributing tech equipment.
Comprehensive numbers on the cost savings of going Green are hard to come by so we are left with anecdotal evidence, such as Dell, which in 2008 reduced the amount of packaging it used in shipping its products, saving $8 million dollars over the next four years. $2 million a year may not be a huge savings for a company the size of Dell, but a comprehensive set of similar initiatives could lead to real savings. As the saying goes, A million here, a million there…pretty soon we are talking about real money.
Green Marketing Strategies
This also gives you a marketing strategy. If you are a new company looking to appeal to younger customers, Green marketing offers you a point of differentiation with your more established competitors—you offer a new, Greener way of doing business. If you are an already established company, Green marketing lets you show that you are still growing, still in tune with the changes that matter to people, and, perhaps most importantly, gives you another tool for reaching NEW customers.
Green marketing is, of course, not a panacea. You won’t solve all your marketing problems by going Green, and in some cases, going Green may pose some significant challenges. Green marketing, however, is likely to only grow in importance in coming years as we all begin to feel the effects of Climate Change. Now is the time to start taking advantage of it.