WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) is a specialized agency of the United Nations, dedicated to developing a balanced and accessible international intellectual property (IP) system. The WIPO Magazine, a bimonthly Magazine issued by WIPO (isn’t that a guess!) aims to inform readers about WIPO-led activities, and to show intellectual property, creativity and innovation at work across the world. Thus, the magazine features selected initiatives, policies, meetings, and other activities that have an impact WIPO’s work and the work of the intellectual property community worldwide. The latest issue of the magazine deals with issues relating to climate change. [To subscribe to the printed edition (free of charge), contact [email protected].]

This post aims to review the article written by Jo Bowman titled “Green Branding – Cashing in on the Eco-Market.” In the article, journalist Jo Bowman takes a look at the flourishing business of green branding. Green Branding, simply put, is an attempt, either through a certification mark or other process, to show that your company and/or its products are environmentally friendly.

Bowman argues that the ‘Go Green’ agenda of corporations stems from the consumers demanding products which do not harm the environment. Thus, at least on behalf of the companies, the move to ‘Go Green’ seems to be a purely competitive one. Given this change, companies are opting for green marketing strategies and the process of creating ‘brand value’ for any product or company includes recognizing that environmental issues have the potential to impact brand value, positively or negatively, and accordingly taking action.

For instance, in an interview in 2007, Lee Daley [Chairman and Chief Executive of Saatchi & Saatchi UK] stated that “Brands will not be able to opt out of being green. Companies which do not live by a green protocol will be financially damaged because consumers will punish them. In the longer term, I do not think they will survive.” Moreover, in a recent poll relating to corporate social responsibility, the American consumers concluded that “damaging the environment is the main reason [consumers] would think that a company is socially irresponsible.”

The main question then is what brought about a change in consumer preferences? According to the article, the reasons for change range from increased awareness of environmental concerns to the need to cut back on rising energy prices and tax policies that punish polluters. It is interesting to note that the consumers have realized that the switch won’t come cheap and are ready to pay up to 20% premium on environmentally friendly goods.

Thus, given these changes, all efforts are being made to join the green bandwagon. As Bowman states, “certification marks, labels and logos are increasingly being used by brand owners to signal their green credentials and so boost their market share.” This isn’t a bad bet, as a properly controlled eco-label offers consumers a guarantee that a product or service has been independently verified to meet given environmental standards. Such schemes (for labeling) may be run by government agencies, consumer protection groups, industry associations or other non-governmental organizations. Examples of such certification marks are Australia’s Greenhouse Friendly™ label [which is a registered certification mark administered by the Government Department of Climate Change], Thailand’s Green Label, the Korea Eco-Label and Germany’s Blue Angel mark. Furthermore, some companies, like Philips and BASF, are developing their own eco-standards and product labeling schemes.

However, the Green Bandwagon is getting crowded and confusing, greenwashing being the latest problem. Greenwashing is used to describe companies trumping up their green credentials without any real basis, can backfire on a brand. As stated by Jacob Malthouse [a co-founder of the Vancouver-based consumer advice site ecolabelling.org] in the article, “eco-labels can, however, be something of a mixed blessing for consumers. The sheer number of labels available can be enough to make your shopping trolley spin.” For instance, in Britain alone, there are at least four labels to tell consumers about a product’s carbon footprint. To help consumers navigate through the eco-label maze, the ecolabelling.org website, launched this year, details more than 300 eco-labels and sets out who runs them and what they mean.

Thus, on the shop floor, it’s the consumer that’s king. Grey’s Chris Beaumont sums up: “Ask anyone whether they’re concerned about the environment and it’s almost an academic question. Everybody is.” The question is will similar initiatives hold good in India, especially if it means shelling out more dough.

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