Many businesses are skittish about marketing sustainability benefits of their products these days because they are afraid of being branded as "greenwashers" -- I think that's especially true in the plastics sector. But Jacquelyn Ottman, an adviser on green marketing and author of "The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding," says skepticism shouldn't scuttle companies' sustainability efforts, or their marketing campaigns. Ottman has a column today on sister publication Advertising Age subtitled "5 Steps for Gaining Consumer Trust Despite Greenwashing Fears." Here are some samples:
- Thwart the most discriminating of critics by visibly making progress toward measurable goals. Being proactive in responding to the public's concerns and expectations starts with a visible and committed CEO. That's because CEOs can create an emotional link between the company and its customers. Empower your employees, too. Educate them on environmental issues and the specifics of their company's processes so they can fuel authentic communications about your company's green initiatives.
- Don't mislead. Be specific, prominent and comprehensive so as not to confuse. Consumers may claim to know what commonly used terms such as "recyclable" and "biodegradable" mean, but they can be easily mistaken -- creating risk for unsuspecting sustainable marketers.
- The best advice for green marketers is to adopt specific standards for disclosure of green initiatives and to follow the FTC Green Guides or other appropriate government guidelines.