Are Green Marketers Selling Their Souls?

A few months back I published a post about a market study entitled "Green Marketing: What Works; What Doesn't – A Marketing Study Of Practitioners." In the study, a significant percentage of marketers who tracked their responses reported an increase in effectiveness when they used green messaging in their campaigns.

Quite frankly, I wasn't intending this post to be particularly insightful. I was simply reporting on some interesting research. I thought the results of the study indicated a heartening trend -- that Americans are finally concerned enough about sustainability issues that "green" messaging is actually getting through to them.

However, my little article touched off some intense emotional responses. One man in particular brought up an issue which needs to be addressed, because it touches on the heart not only of responsible marketing but of our very chances of achieving sustainability in our modern world:

Perhaps you should step back and take a look at what you call green marketing… (followed by a lengthy discourse on the environmental consequences of the coal and nuclear plants which power the Internet and make modern commerce possible.)

Green is a self-aggrandizing rationalization that people use to assert that they are living well for the common good of their fellow man and the planet earth. Sorry folks, this posture ended with Plato's Republic.

He also sent me a scathing private email ending with:

"Do you really believe in what you write? Or, are you selling your soul for the sake of money?"

Wow. Talk about a soul-searching question.

Here was my response:

Yes, you're right.

Marketing is not green. The entire military-industrial-corporate society we live in is completely unsustainable. But I think one has to start somewhere. There are companies and organizations out there that are working to change it for the better. I'm privileged to work with some of them.

Whether or not the messages in question were honest and worthwhile, or whether it was all greenwashing, and whether it's even ethical to use green messaging is beyond the scope of this post – good topics for another day, for sure.

Yes I know the whole issue of marketing and business and how it relates to the environment is a sticky one at best. It's amazingly complex and there are few if any straight answers. I welcome your thoughts.

 

Next Page: Is green marketing truly an oxymoron?