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The Fading of Green? - courtesy of SCA

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Mike Kapalko
Sustainability Manager,
SCA North America

In this podcast, we interview Mike Kapalko, Sustainability Manager of SCA North America, about The Fading of Green

Is the constant barrage of green marketing and sustainability truly fading away or are we just becoming immune to it?
Without splitting hairs about the often interchanged definitions of green versus sustainable, generally the concept of the "green" movement is more like a fad and less of a focus today. A few years back you could switch to CFL light bulbs and you were green. It didn't matter if you had a 5,000 square foot house or a pool heated year round to 90 degrees. You were still green. Now it is much more evolved than that and people are really starting to understand the bigger picture. In our 2012 Tork Green Business Survey, 32% of people reported that green products and services are now the norm and a required expectation. It took the green fad to start the movement, so it is not really a bad thing. Today we see more of a holistic view that connects people, businesses, and the planet for long term viability. And with 42% of people responding this is just getting started, if you are a company providing single, narrow-scope benefits or making token efforts, you are missing out on a large opportunity.

Is there still a large opportunity to go green within this movement?
More than two-thirds of adults responded they purchase green products or services to some degree. The Census Bureau reports about 238 million adults in the United States, so approximately 164 million people are buying green products and services. Over half the people would rather eat at a restaurant with a social and environmental focus. Other research shows 68% of college applicants consider a school's sustainability efforts in deciding where to attend. 58% of tenants rank green building operations as important. If you or your organization are not focused on offering sustainable options or operating with the environment in mind, you are really limiting the total number of potential customers you can attract and retain.

So green marketing is actually a 'must' for organizations today?
The general public has become much more aware. 82% of adults responded that they are knowledgeable about what companies and brands have a strong history of sustainability so the messages are reaching most people. And proving how ingrained this is in their habits, a staggering 80% of those people consider the company's sustainability history when making purchases. There is the flip side of the impact of green marketing, with less than one in five adults responding they believe most companies are being transparent and ethical in their operations. Really telling as to how jaded and skeptical people are to the companies that hopped on the bandwagon years ago, only 18% trust companies claiming to be transparent — even if they have independent verification!

What do you need to do to bridge the gap between having a sustainability component to your marketing and actually having people believe you?
Keep in mind the majority of people are buying green products and services, so focus on the opportunity before being scared off by the doubters. Clearly customers are taking the time to educate themselves and not be entirely swayed by company claims. Nearly three quarters of our respondents can determine if a green claim is true. 27% consider their own research to be most reliable and 19% rely on third party certifications. The first step is to be clear and transparent, without inflating or fabricating any sort of benefit, people will see right through that. People want to know more about the products and companies they work with, and will rely on information provided by the companies themselves, outside groups, and their social networks and peer groups. A portion of our 2012 Tork Report, releasing this fall, will have some great new insights on this connection between consumers, companies, and the role of the environment. For example, most people responded the impact on the environment of a product and the company making it are equally important, showing that people really expect sustainability to considered at every level of the organization.

posted on 8/31/2012