Effective B2B Green Marketing

Effective B2B Green Marketing

When we think of green marketing, our natural tendency is to think about direct to consumer products.  However, there is a far greater opportunity in B2B marketing.  Consider the millions of suppliers that are necessary for all the products in the marketplace.  P&G has 75,000 suppliers alone!  I believe that in the B2B space, green marketing will be an imperative in the future, and for now it is a key product differentiator.

Business-to-Business Demand

Similar to consumers, many companies are actively seeking to purchase greener products.  Firms have been pressured by market forces to take responsibility for the supply chain.  Perhaps the most notable examples of this is when Nike and other footwear and apparel companies received significant pressure to take responsibility for the poor working and environmental conditions at the companies that manufactured shoes for them in the 1990s.  Not long after this, several apparel firms received significant pressure to take responsibility for suppliers that made their products in sweatshops.  Companies started to get the point and then began to develop very comprehensive policies and auditing programs for their suppliers to ensure that the environment is protected and employees within their supply chain have safe working conditions.  Taking this initiative even further, we see manufacturing firms now asking their supply chain to achieve certain goals, such as reducing water, energy, waste, and other issues.

With the advent of greening the supply chain initiatives, suppliers will gain market advantage when they meet the demands of their business customers.  I know that in my company (Johnson & Johnson), we give preference to like-minded firms that have adopted sustainable practices.

B2B marketing is also getting to be a bigger focus area due to the advent of supplier scorecards.  Walmart’s Supplier Sustainability Assessment and Packaging Score Card are well known, but there are other very influential companies with sustainability scorecards of their own.  Kaiser Permanente and Procter & Gamble (P&G) have also issued mandatory supplier scorecards.  These two companies have a combined annual purchasing power of $121 billion!  Suppliers take notice when they hear the Chief Procurement Officer of Kaiser Permanente say, “Green up your act today, lest you lose a huge client tomorrow.”

These scorecards will no doubt drive companies to highlight the greener benefits of their products.  When customers are interested in if a product contains specific toxic chemicals or if they are manufactured using renewable power, it is in your best interest to clearly communicate which products in your portfolio have greener features.

Spotlight: Philips

Philips has three main product groups: consumer products, health care, and lighting.  Their greener product development program applies to all three sectors.  Improvement categories called Green Focal Areas – energy, packaging, hazardous materials, weight, recycling and disposal, and lifetime reliability – used to develop greener products are also employed in marketing.  These categories help focus improvements across all Philips brands in the areas, so why not use them to market the eco-improved aspects of products?

A visit to Philips’ website will enable a customer to see the greener products in each of their categories.  To communicate the sustainable characteristics, each product has a profile that indicates what the benefits are in the applicable Green Focal Areas.  As an example in the health products category, the A HD9 Ultrasound System lists the following benefits in the Green Focal Ares of energy consumption, product packaging weight, and recyclability: Compared to its predecessor product, there is 18 percent reduced energy consumption and 25 percent less packaging material weight.

The use of a product profile coupled with a communications tool such as the Green Focal Areas makes it easy for business customers to find the greener products that have the benefits they are looking for.  In addition to the profiles to communicate improvements, a branded logo “asimpleswitch.com” is used to “clearly identify products that have a significantly better environmental  performance than their competitors or predecessors.”

A smart way to help their customers and sell greener products under asimpleswitch.com is by offering a free energy audit on their website.  This audit helps their customers by generating an assessment of their facility, and an action plan with savings options.  No doubt the audit will help the customers see which Philips products will help them save energy and money.

Philips’ green marketing program combines product development guidelines (Green Focal Areas) joined with the branded asimpleswitch.com program to help customers see the environmental benefits of products that meet their needs.  The product profiles lend credibility to the products’ improved environmental performance.  Philips’ program covers all the keys to an effective green marketing program – credible greener products, meeting their customers’ needs, and effective communications of their greener products.

Key Elements of Effective Green Marketing

Effective green marketing programs, whether B2C or B2B, have certain key elements:

  1. Commitment of top management.
  2. Greener products are woven into the business strategy.
  3. Understand customer desires and goals and align greener product communications to address these needs.
  4. Clearly communicate greener characteristics with third-party certifications or company-branded programs.  Use communication tools such as environmental product profiles or company-generated labels.
  5. Be authentic and credible in all marketing efforts, substantiate all claims, and be transparent.
  6. Sustainable branding is an enhancement to other brand qualities – the idea that it’s a great product and it has these sustainable attributes.  A product’s greener quality should never overshadow its purpose.

We have seen in our analysis of green marketing approaches that these elements have been successfully put into practice by consumer packaged good firms, food suppliers, chemical manufacturers, electronics, and many others.  The most successful green marketing programs include these key elements.  As stated at the beginning of this chapter, a brand must be built on the foundations of (1) having a credible greener product story, (2) meeting the customer’s demands, and (3) appropriately communicating the greener attributes.

This excerpt was taken from Greener Products: The Making and Marketing of Sustainable Brands by Al Iannuzzi. For access to a complete system for green marketing from an internationally-recognized expert – take advantage of this special offer: Buy direct and save! Use Promo code AQL50 and save 20% plus free shipping at CRCPress.com.

B2B dice image via drpr.com.au

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