Ben Wise on Branding

Watching the world through the lens of the brand

Posts Tagged ‘greenwashing

Are Brands Going Green?

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For the past 18 months, there has been a regular stream of press releases about brands making efforts to be more environmentally friendly. Generally these efforts can be grouped into internal (more efficient use of energy) or external (more sustainable products).

Internal Greening

Internal projects will generally produce a compelling cost savings. Any goodwill it generates from consumers is just a bonus. For example, a few months ago eBay announced that they had installed Bloom Boxes, a more efficient source of power. The economics of this surely produce a substantial savings, which is likely the key driver behind eBay installing them.

Internal greening is driven by cost savings, not an effort to save the environment.

External Greening

External greening, on the surface at least, appears to be for a much nobler reason. You can’t dispute that producing products with more eco-friendly materials is good for environment. But is that what consumers are paying for?

The reality is that most consumers aren’t yet willing to part with their money in order to help the environment. When I tell people this, they often cite examples like cleaning products (eg Green Works by Clorox) or food (eg anything organic). While these products do have environment benefits and do command a price premium, consumers are buying them to help themselves, not the environment. Fewer toxins or other yucky things in the home is safer for people, and people are willing to pay for their safety. Again, this means that the environmental benefits for most consumers are only a bonus and not the primary driver of the purchase.

External greening, unfortunately is driven by consumer needs other than wanting to save the environment.

What do you think? Are consumers willing to pay a premium for brands that help the environment?


Written by benwisebranding

April 27, 2010 at 9:22 pm

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Is eBay Greenwashing Their Brand?

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eBay, seen by many as the world’s largest garage sale, is trying out a new message – that buying used products (like most of the stuff sold on their site) is good for the environment. eBay is hoping to position their brand in the ‘green’ space and boost sales on the site to consumers concerned about the environment.

It is hard to argue their claim that buying used is better for the world. If you buy a used handbag, than manufacturers don’t need to harvest more raw materials or expend energy actually making it. Even Greenpeace agrees, saying “Does this pass the laugh test? I think it can.”

The objection to this position is that it required no change from eBay’s operations or business model. The site is still selling the same array of used products that it has since the site first appeared. It is opportunistic of eBay to reposition themselves as green in order to capitalize on the change in consumer sentiment.

eBay is certainly doing other things to prove their green credentials, such as giving more prominence to green products ( and using renewable energy sources. These actions deserve praise, because they are exactly that – actions. Taking a 15-year-old business model and all of a sudden saying it is eco-friendly doesn’t pass the sniff test.

What do you think? Is eBay truly green?

Written by benwisebranding

March 9, 2010 at 5:29 pm

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