It May be easy being Green, but speaking about it is NOT

I presented at a small conference on Corporate Sustainability in San Francisco earlier this month on the challenges of marketing and communicating “green”. The presentation was a lot of fun and the audience was very engaged–we all seemed to have a good time discussing the topic. My premise on why communicating green is so difficult is that when you speak on how green your company or your product is, what you are REALLY saying is how less bad you are–which I argue is a tough message to sell.

Almost all companies have a net-negative impact on the environment, and I would argue almost all people, or at least the ones that I know. We eat food, we consume energy, we produce waste, and some of us have children which perpetuates the whole cycle. Consequently, when you talk about your “greenness”, you are actually speaking about having less negative impact, and that my friends doesn’t fit nicely with a typical marketing campaign. When a company speaks about their green features, without discussing the other side of the equation, it can breed cynicism and skepticism. I’m not advocating that you don’t do it; I’m just stating that it’s really tricky.

What made my presentation really interesting is I followed a presentation made by Fiji Water on their efforts to go carbon negative. It was a very good presentation and the presenter from Fiji Water did an excellent job discussing all of their sustainability efforts; however, the notion of a bottle water company going carbon negative didn’t sit well with all of the attendees in the room, and there was a lot of passionate discussion on the presentation.

Fortunately for me, all of the energy in the room generated from the previous topic was good for my presentation which was delivered on a Friday afternoon, so I could use the help. Furthermore, the bottle water discussion really emphasized my point about the challenges of green marketing and communication. What do you think about this topic?

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