History of Green Marketing

Instructor: Angela Carollo

Angela has her M.B.A. in marketing and has spoken at numerous conventions across the United States. Areas of focus include social media, branding, advertising, sales, media, marketing, and management.

In this lesson, we will look at some of the different events that led to businesses practicing green marketing. We will also touch on changes in green marketing throughout the decades.

Green marketing is a company's way of saying, We care about things other than money, so buy from us. It's a good thing, as long as companies are being truthful. In this lesson, we'll take a closer look at why businesses are thinking beyond the dollar sign, and why green marketing is a common business practice today.

The Super Simple Version of Green Marketing

Green marketing is a common business practice
green marketing

  • Marketing is the overall process of getting a product or service to the customer and maintaining the relationship between the organization and customer. It incorporates every aspect of business, including pricing, promotional efforts, placement, and actual development of the product or service.
  • Green is a term used to describe something as environmentally friendly. For example, green energy refers to renewable resources such as solar energy. Green is a good thing, just as green plants are healthy plants.
  • When you put these two terms together, you get green marketing, or marketing a product or service based on its environmental benefits. Another way to think of it is marketing the good stuff about a business.

What led to this idea of green marketing? Well, several events over time. Let's explore.

Getting to Green Marketing

Movement Towards Business Regulation

What would spring be like without chirping birds and happy animals? This is the quiet future Rachel Carson predicted in her 1962 book, Silent Spring. She had a bad, gut feeling that pesticides, like DDT, were not only hurting people, but animals and the environment as well. Ten years after the release of Carson's book, DDT was no longer allowed to be used in the United States.

Carson brought attention to the dangers of pesticides
Rachel Carson

This wasn't the first time that businesses were regulated (business regulation goes back to the 18th century), nor the first time a book led to regulatory acts (Upton Sinclair's book The Jungle did this with the meat packing industry). What is unique about Carson's piece is that it made people start caring about the environment. This created a snowball effect that eventually led to the change towards green marketing.

Businesses Go Green

After the release of Silent Spring, there were anti-war protests happening all over the United States, and then California's oil spill in 1969. The environment became the focus of most conversations. April 22nd became Earth Day to focus this energy and draw more attention to environmental issues. These efforts aided in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (1970), the Clean Air Act (1970) and Clean Water Act (1972), and the Endangered Species Act (1973).

The first Earth Day took place in 1970
earth day

Businesses were forced to respond to these changes, and green marketing began. Keep America Beautiful, created in 1971, was one of the memorable campaigns that introduced this change in marketing practice. Several years later in 1987, the report Our Common Future introduced the idea of sustainable development. Businesses began to make changes to become more sustainable and responsible for their impact on the environment and on society, something referred to as corporate social responsibility (CSR). This is reflected in advertising campaigns moving towards the 1990s.

Green Goes Mainstream

Once the 1990s came around, people had much more awareness about several different environmental issues. We learned about the hole in the ozone layer and the consequences of deforestation; we had experienced yet another oil spill (the Exxon Valdez) and a tragic gas leak (Union Carbide India); and we had experienced several natural disasters, including the wildfire in Yellowstone, the North American drought, and Hurricane Hugo.

Exxon oil spill upsets America
oil spill

People were ready to make changes in consumption in the 1990s. During this time The Green Consumer was a best seller, the Green Party in the UK had the highest vote count, and businesses were starting to respond as well. The number of newspaper print ads featuring green products quadrupled in the U.S. (tripled for television); there were twice as many new green products introduced; and a survey found that a majority of multinational corporations in Europe changed their products and systems to be greener.

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