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Is Green Still Golden?

Does green marketing lead to greenbacks?

April 17, 2009

Everyone knows that the price of going green is usually steeper than the alternative—in almost any product category. So with the recession putting the squeeze on consumer spending, are marketers becoming less enthusiastic about pushing environmentally correct products?

Not according to the American Marketing Association (AMA) and Fleishman-Hillard. Their polling shows that companies are still investing in green projects and products—and they want their customers to know it.

Far from pulling back, one-half of the marketers in the survey thought economic realities would actually encourage the adoption of green practices, and 58% planned on putting more emphasis on developing corporate sustainability opportunities in the months ahead.

“At a time when the economy requires everyone to stay focused on the essentials, it’s noteworthy that businesses are putting sustainability programs into that must-do column,” said Nancy Costopulos of the AMA. “The business community is embracing environmental sustainability in a way that this country has probably never seen before.”

When asked if the Obama administration’s policies would accelerate the adoption of sustainability programs, 63% of the respondents said yes, and only 14% said no.

Over one-half of those surveyed believed that sustainability is an essential element of their company’s reputation.

Yet behind the brave green grins, a little teeth-chattering could be detected. When asked if consumers would pay more for green products now, 49% disagreed, and only 40% agreed.

Under further questioning, the marketers’ optimism was tempered. While 43% of them expect their companies to increase green marketing, more than one-half do not expect to increase their “storytelling” in the category.

In fact, the survey showed that even popular sustainability programs, such as recycling and electric energy efficiency, were embraced by only a minority of businesses, 36% and 20%, respectively.

A report from Clean Edge, “Clean Energy Trends 2009,” which concentrated on green industries, was even more downbeat.

After noting that global investments in new energy technologies expanded by 4.7% last year, rising from $148.4 billion in 2007 to $155.4 billion in 2008, the report stated, “The clean-energy sector faces considerable challenges moving forward.”

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, the report’s author, Joel Makower, expects green industry sales to flatline or fall slightly in 2009, “and some green-tech companies won’t live to see 2010.”

Green marketing is good, but no one can be certain whether—under continuing pressure from the economy—it will wilt.

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