Thursday, September 6, 2007

Weekly Green Report

The Greening (and Certifying) of a Product

The trend by consumer products manufacturers to label their products as green or "eco-friendly" is growing not only in the U.S. but throughout the world. However, there exists no one, clear standard (or logo) in the U.S. for consumers to recognize as meaning a product is certified as green.

For example, nearly every American Consumer is aware of the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" which appears on products that organization certifies as meeting their numerous criteria. The Good Housekeeping Seal on a product is viewed by shoppers as meaning the product has passed the group's tests and is a "good buy." Consumers have much confidence in the seal and manufacturers know that and thus seek out an endorsement for their products from the Good Housekeeping organization.

In terms of a similar seal or logo to certify food or other packaged goods as green or "eco-friendly"--it doesn't exist. There also aren't any clear, objective standards as to what constitutes a green product in terms of its content, packaging, how it's manufactured and the like. In other words there is not yet a "Good Housekeeping" standard (or similar universal seal) to designate a consumer product as green.

There are a number of independent organizations who are working on this and certifying products as green using their own logos. The September 5, 2007 Los Angeles Times has an excellent article which discusses this issue and describes some of the companies such as Green Seal (see their Green Seal logo at top of page) and others who are currently certifying food and other consumer products as green using their own environmental criteria and standards. You can read the full Los Angeles Times article here.

This is a key issue for manufacturers in the natural and specialty foods industries. Natural and specialty products lend themselves well to such a certification if it can be seen as something with universal meaning. Natural and specialty category shoppers are more environmentally concerned in general than non category shoppers. Surveys also show these consumers are more willing to pay a premium for a product if it's green, grown using sustainable methods, its packaging is made from recyclable materials (and is recyclable) and other similar green attributes.

A national standard of what constitutes a green product and packaging like exists for organic products would go a long way towards not only encouraging more companies to "green" their products and packaging but also would create a clear standard for retailers and consumers. A strong marketing opportunity exists all around--as well as a win for the environment--if such a standard is created. Then the seal (or seals) (just like the Good Housekeeping Seal does) would have much more meaning to the industry as well as to shoppers.

Green Retail Briefs
Retailers Pushing Packagers to think Greener
Retailers are increasingly asking suppliers to get greener when it comes to the packaging they use for their products. Retailers are doing this largely because at retail they're at the point of purchase where they here from shoppers everyday. These shoppers are becoming more environmentally-concerned consumers and want to purchase products with more environmentally-friendly packaging.

A second reason retailers are speaking out is because of pending and potential legislation in the areas of in-store recycling, use -taxes and other environmentally-related potential legislation. For state and city governments the retailer is the easiest target when it comes to laws requiring recycling and similar behaviors. Just like with the consumer the retailer is at the point of purchase--right where lawmakers can see them.

Wal-Mart's initiative to reduce the packaging in all the products it buys from vendors by 5% is also spurring other retailers to act in the same manner. The result is they are letting their suppliers know they want to see smaller package sizes, more use of post-recyclable material in packages, and overall all more green packaging solutions. You can read more about this retailer initiative and what some suppliers are doing about it in this September 4, 2007 article from Reuters here.

College Students Rate Wal-Mart High on Social Responsibility
Wal-Mart was rated by college students in a survey as the second most socially responsible company in the U.S. Wal-Mart was rated ahead of Whole Foods Markets, Inc. which was ranked number 7. Ice-cream maker Ben & Jerry's was ranked by the college students as the number one most socially responsible company in the U.S.

The survey, conducted by respected pollster Harris Worldwide, interviewed 1,592 college students and was completed in April, 2007 and just released yesterday.

Three-quarters of the students surveyed sighted "fair labor practices" as the most important to them in determining a company's social responsibility. Two-thirds said being "eco-friendly" or "green" were most significant, and a near equal number sighted said corporate charitable donations as most significant. You can read more about the survey and its results here.

California Coalition Wants Tesco's Green Promises in Writing
A coalition of community groups in Southern California is pressing Tesco, owner of the Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market chain, to sign a pledge and formally live up to its promises to be a good environmental retailer and reduce greenhouse gases, pay decent wages and provide affordable health care to its workers, reports today's Los Angeles Times. The community coalition wants this signed pledge from Tesco before any Fresh & Easy stores open. The first stores are slated to open in November.

Among the green or environmental conditions the coalition wants Tesco to agree to are to build and operate green buildings and to reduce the traffic and pollution its stores and large distribution network will create.

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market's CEO Tim Mason says the stores are being built to high environmental standards including energy reduction. He says windows and skylights will be placed to provide more natural light, the airflow on all refrigeration units is being adjusted to reduce electricity use by at least 10%, walls are being triple-insulated, energy-efficient light bulbs will be used inside and outside the stores, and shipping and packing materials will be either recycled or reused. Tesco also has installed solar panels on its large distribution center located in Southern California. You can read the Los Angeles Times (Sept. 6, 2007) story here.

Green Notes

A reuseable shopping bag is just a bag...unless it's Anya Hindmarch's "I'm Not A Plastic Bag" tote bag. The in-demand bag was offered for sale for the first time last night in a popular Hong Kong shopping center. There was a huge crowd waiting outside the boutique where the bag was going on sale; so large a crowd in fact that a riot broke out. Many people had been waiting in front of the store all night and decided to shake the doors to get in. Police were called--and nearby shopkeepers were scared the crowd might come for them. You can read all about the situation in this article from today's Australia Harold Sun newspaper here.

Speaking of "eco-friendly"reuseable shopping bags...ECOBAGS, makers of reuseable canvas, biodegradable and other forms of "eco-friendly" shopping bags, is going to the 59th annual Emmy Awards on September 16. Hearts on Fire Diamond Company and the Environmental Media Association are hosting what is described as the ultra-exclusive "Green With Envi" eco-chic celebrity gift lounge at this year's Emmy's. The two groups have selected ECOBAGS to be the official bag of the green celebrity gift lounge. The attractive cloth bags are emblazned with the phrase, "Nothing On Me Is Plastic." (See picture at left.)ECOBAGS founder Sharon Rowe will be giving the bags out to celebrities and VIP's so they will have something to hold all of their swag in. She also will be giving green tips to the guests as they visit the lounge.

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore will publish a sequel to his best selling environmental book "An Inconvenient Truth." Gore's new green book is titled "The Path to Survival." The book is to be published on Earth Day next year, April 22, 2008. You can read more here. One feature of the book will be a description and discussion by Gore of how improving the environment and launching green initiatives can create millions of new jobs in the coming years and serve as an economic stimulant.
Actor Brolin is Budding Organic Fast Food King
Actor James Brolin, husband of Barbara Streisand, is setting his sights on becoming an organic fast food burger king. Brolin, who already runs a lumber company and a building business, is the brains behind a new venture to sell healthy, organic burgers and related fast foods in a "eco-friendly" environment.
"I had an idea for healthful, organic food and burgers for your children that looks like fast food but everything would come from organic cattle, free run," Brolin told the online music magazine " I have a designer for that (a franchise) and a promotional thing (program)," Brolin said. Brolin pointed to the success of Whole Foods Market, Inc. as his model. "Whole Foods now is taking over the world and they're all organic beef, all organic vegetables," Brolin said. "It's becoming the thing (organic) for people who want to live an extra five years. You pay 25 percent more and live an extra five years--seems like a pretty good trade."
Green Marketing Round-up
Green or environmental marketing offers many benefits for natural and specialty foods suppliers, marketers and retailers. Today more and more consumers are looking for positive environmental attributes in the food and consumer products they purchase as well as at the retail stores where they do their shopping. Natural~Specialty Foods Memo (NSFM) surveyed some recent literature on green marketing and has chosen a few articles we believe will be interesting and useful for our readers. Below is a summary of some of those articles.
First, Jacquelyn Ottman and Virginia Terry of the New York City green marketing consulting firm J. Ottman Consulting, Inc., have authored a comprehensive report titled "Strategic Marketing of Greener Products." Their article focuses on how companies that have created green products can take advantage of their product's environmental attributes and create a green marketing strategic marketing plan and program.
The authors also discuss green consumers and offer marketing program examples from companies like Tom's of Maine, Earth's Best Baby Food and others. Ottman and Terry offer a complete blueprint for thinking strategically about green marketing as well as developing and implementing a marketing plan. You can read their article here.
Next, we also like this article from Fast Company Magazine, "Is Green the New Organic." The article asks the question: "What is green?" It also poses the question...when can green marketing become too much? The piece also talks about consumer confusion over what really is green and how that confusion can effect environmental marketing messages. The article makes the point that green marketing needs to be more than just marketing (such behavior is often called greenwashing). Rather it needs to be a part of a real concern for the environment. You can read the full article here.
Third, Kroger Co., the largest U.S. supermarket chain in terms of sales, recently introduced a new corporate brand of organic grocery products. The line, called "Private Selection Organics," currently contains 65 products ranging from pasta, tea, frozen waffles and peanut butter to fresh milk. The "private Selection Organics" items are currently being introduced in Kroger stores. Kroger plans on doubling the number of items in the line by the end of this year.
Five years ago Kroger introduced its first private-label natural and organic grocery line called "Naturally Preferred." The chain will keep this line but is putting its marketing emphasis on the new "Private Selection Organics" line which is designed to go head-to-head with any major branded organic grocery line.
In fact Kroger is conducting a green marketing blitz for the new organic grocery line. The chain is devoting almost all of the upcoming issue of its monthly food publication to the "Private Selection Organics" line. It's also doing direct mailings, deep coupon promotions and using other media to communicate the new line to consumers. Kroger's CEO has said he wants to be the retailer who brings organic groceries to the masses at cheap prices. The publication Marketing Daily has an article (September 6, 2007) providing more detail on the Kroger organic grocery line green marketing campaign. You can read the article here.
Our last selection, a recent article in the Kansas City Star newspaper, talks about the booming LOHAS (Lifestyles of health and sustainability) green consumer market, which the Natural Marketing Institute says is now over $209 billion in annual sales, and how companies in numerous industry sectors are marketing to these consumers.
The article further describes the green marketing initiatives of these various companies as well as the overall LOHAS market. It also discusses the potential macro and micro economic potential of such a large and growing green consumer base and how it might effect corporations and small businesses along with the entire U.S. economy. The article offers excellent examples of what many companies are doing in terms of environmental initiatives and provides a good overview for marketers either already doing green-oriented marketing or wanting to. You can read the full article here.

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