I don’t deny that BP undoubtedly failed to take the proper precautions with their deep-water drilling activities. But I also believe that BP’s downfall was exponentially worse due to their exceptional marketing efforts. Beyond Petroleum. It was one of the most successful green rebranding campaigns in recent history. A company that derived over 99% of their revenue from petroleum changed their brand to represent that they derive revenue from nothing but renewable sources. They completely and utterly mislead consumers into thinking they were better than petroleum.
I admit it. I was fooled. Their advertisements of how they invested in renewable energy… their contributions to social causes… their green logo… it seemed legit. I didn’t do any research, but they were definitely saying the right things. The problem, though, was that they let the perception of their brand get too far ahead of reality. They were advertising nothing but green, but they were doing everything but green.
I’ve increasingly witnessed companies in my industry deploying similar tactics. More than 99% of the products some of our competitors produce (by volume) are made from petroleum. They are made from the oil that is derived from deep-water rigs. And even while the nation watched oil gush into the Gulf, those companies continued green washing customers by touting their single green product line. In fact, some even stepped up their green marketing during that time. Most people prayed that the oil would stop gushing while these companies kept sucking oil from our earth’s core.
There’s one company in particular that has crossed the line in my mind. I’ll refrain from stating the company’s name at this point (maybe in a future post I’ll take off my gloves). This company recently launched a line of green products after 5 years of watching from the sidelines. However, even while they launched these products, they still promoted their polystyrene foam products as being a great environmental choice. They are talking out of both sides of their mouth. They say two completely contradictory statements hoping that they’ll appeal to customers in some way, shape or form.
“We believe polystyrene foam has an excellent carbon footprint compared to PLA. Buy foam if you want to be green.”
“We just launched a line of sustainable products made from PLA. They meet the evolving needs of green customers and are less harmful on the environment. Choose us when you want green”
I kid you not. That is basically what that company is saying. It’s shocking, really. This reminds me of BP because they are letting perception get ahead of reality. They are promoting themselves as greener than they actually are. That won’t last forever though.
My advice to this, anonymous company: Get 3rd party data that supports your claims. Consumers aren’t going to allow themselves to be green washed forever. We”ll let it happen once or twice, but we’ll get smart after that. There’s a new wave of green coming. And that wave involves a deeper understanding of what green actually is and making sure companies back up their claims. Get ready for Green 2.0. I’ll talk more about that in a future post.