“Tell me why, I don’t like Ma han day’s, tell me why I don’t like Ma han day’s”, Boomtown Rats 1979, I’m sure you remember the song. It fell to my mind tonight speaking at this event called “Green Monday”, and I certainly do like “Ma han day’s”, particularly tonight.
The topic I was covering was about how to position green products into specific markets, for example, the difference between consumers (B2C) and businesses (B2B). The business I work for has been working towards environmental objectives for about twenty years, however it was 1993 before we developed the worlds greenest printer. At the time, it was a monumentous effort, taking huge resources and passing very stringent tests. We were confident that it would be a winner.
Opening tonights session, I spoke briefly about some of the key lessons I’d learned over the years about positioning or selling green products. Let me share them with you: -
Lesson number 1. Businesses won’t pay a premium to go green. Consumers are more likely, providing they have the disposable income. This was a harsh lesson as we thought everyone would share our philosophy of doing the right thing. When it came to it, the money talked. I call this “ECO-nomics”, that is, you have to make a sound business case with clear return on investment (ROI) or return on objectives (ROO).
Lesson number 2. It shouldn’t inconvenience the user. If it means someone has to do something different it puts them out, then you’re likely to see objections raised or resistance to a proposed change. Try removing people’s bins in your office for a week and see how eco-friendly their prepared to be when they have to get up from their desk to use a waste bin.
Lesson number 3. It must be a “no-brainer”. Take all of the guessing out of it. Same price, easier to use, sexier than the non-eco version etc. The more you make people think, the harder it gets to convince them to change a habit.
Hard as this is to say, the world is suffering from ECO-fatigue. Recessions are killers for green investments, the age of austerity might put back sustainable procurement and people are more concernnd with their personal worlds, than the world (massive generalisation I know, however it is a generalisation). Now it’s about protecting your job at all costs and doing things that make you look good in front of your boss or feel happy in a miserable economic environment.
We’re living in a disposable consumer age. Consumption and one-upmanship trump eco-ness any day of the week. Example. Apple i-Pad. According to Greenpeace, they only rate 4.9 out of 10 on green issues in their Guide to Greener Electronics. Who cares? They’ve made a sexy gadget that everyone wants, no one looked at the eco-label, far from it, buyers were more interested in being first, bragging rights and making their lives easier.
So, this is what the green market is up against. You have to play in the same backyard as everyone else. Don’t think people will pay more, they expect you to be green as a hygiene factor, but that still doesn’t mean they will buy your product, you’ll just be considered. If it’s green and a monstrosity, forget it.
There is reason to be positive however. There are a growing band of businesses and individuals that continue to lead the charge and show leadership in this area. The businesses attending tonights Green Monday conference are all great examples of this and I’m pleased to air my views that it’s still a tough road. Corporate CSR brochures and Corporate procurement are still disconnected, boardroom rhetoric and actions are still distanced, no-one said it would be easy, but the world won’t wait and we have to all be good Corporate citizens and get on with it.