Jump to content
Product Design Forums

Treasurebox
Sign in to follow this  
Guest JACK8D

“going Green”. Is The Eco-friendly Push Of Corporations Any More Than A Topical Marketing Strategy?

Recommended Posts

Guest JACK8D

HI all,

 

I m currently writing a research paper in my final year of my degree just thought i would post it up here and see if anybody has any opinions or just fancies a discussion, any thoughts/comments are more than welcome.

 

I am looking at the issue of corporations using the current trend of “Going Green” and “Looking after the environment” in an effort to market their products.

 

The concept of looking after the environment is extremely important and a lot of companies do have a sincere interest. However I would like to discover if there are any who could possibly have a hidden agenda other than just protecting the environment.

 

Are these new “Eco friendly products” a benefit to the environment, or just an elaborate array of smoke and mirrors to allow companies to continue business? Tricking the consumer into thinking the product in which they are investing is contributing to the slow down of global warming.

 

Do these companies have a genuine interest in protecting the earth? Or are they just jumping on the political bandwagon and using this highly discussed topic as a way to generate positive hype for their product?

 

Is there truly such a thing as an environmentally beneficial product? Surely what ever it is, it would be more beneficial to have just not produced the thing in the first place?

 

Answers on a postcard.....

 

Cheers,

 

Jack.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Is there truly such a thing as an environmentally beneficial product? Surely what ever it is, it would be more beneficial to have just not produced the thing in the first place?"

 

In reality, no, probably not.

 

From my end I can tell you that the green issue is being taken seriously, but it's still a VERY young topic and will take a few years to mature in most corporatations. The biggest areas being looked at in our field of electronic devices are:

 

Sustainable materials: RoHS compliancy to get out anything bad, post-consumer recycled polymers, etc

 

Life Cycle Analysis: Where can energy be saved in the process? What processes do more harm then good for the product? What happens to the product after it gets thrown away, is there a take back program?

 

Corporate culture: A huge amount of energy and materials can be saved before a product ever gets made. Not printing wasteful emails, using coffee mugs instead of foam cups, turning lights off at the end of the day. Tons of small things like that need to trickle down throughout the company, but it's time consuming and difficult to get people to change their habits.

 

Green isn't just about trying to save the planet anymore, it's a differentiator from your competition. Consumers are becoming more eco-saavy and are willing to spend more money on products that they know (or are led to believe) are "good" for the environment.

 

With all that said, there are still hundreds of factories in China cranking out crap that no one wants or needs. Even if 50% of the worlds corporations started following strict eco-guidelines you'd still have a billion tons of crap being pumped out. But we do what we can.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Taro

agreed, probably half half, althought i believe no man-made device is really good for the environment, they just produce less waste or as we should put it as "slowing down global warming" (i personally thinks its impossible to stop it, unless everyone stop driving and smoking n etc etc)

 

im not sure if this really suits ur topic, but i would say that ..... plant a tree? or a plant or something.

Last year, i've went back to my home country, Taiwan, and there are many people who are starting to plant stuff at each households, motivated by the fact that "if each household has one tree, then the environment will be so much better"

 

I currently live in Vancouver right now, so i know this, each households here have a garden, and a several trees explains why Vancouver is such a good place.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest JACK8D

thanks for your replies so far guys, very interesting.

 

Cyberdom i like ur quote

 

"Green isn't just about trying to save the planet anymore, it's a differentiator from your competition"

 

This, I think is extremely true and kind of what I am getting at. Do you think it is likely that many companies are using this as the soul reason for their green policy? are they just concerned about sales without having the concious which makes them concerned about the impact their manufacture has on he envirnoment?..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Adamgc

Hey Jack

 

I think in the end you're likely to conclude both 'yes' and 'no' and in my view this is the ‘correct’ answer to the question.

 

Yes because the fundamental goal of any business is to earn money (even hardcore green businesses have to do this in order to stay afloat long enough to spread the 'green' message). In my experience no business would adopt green products and production methods if they didn't think there was anything in if for them, i.e. if 'green' didn't have some form of 'pull' factor

 

For many decades 'green thinking' was excluded from mainstream design & manufacture precisely because it offered no sales benefit and was likely to increase cost. Now with the environment in headlines virtually every day consumers are much more appreciative of eco-friendly design, and hence more willing to part with there cash for green products. That provides the much needed market-pull factor and companies are starting to respond.

 

Conversely though, there is also a growing push factor in the form of national and European legislation. RoHS, WEEE, producer responsibility and various other legislation is starting to force the hand of manufacturers, and hence designers. Even traditionalist companies that have no interest in the fledgling green market are having to consider green initiatives because of the threat of fines and sanctions.

 

So in short my answer: Yes in the short term manufacturers are most likely buying into the popular green fad because it’s profitable. But I doubt the newfound interest of consumers in eco-friendliness will die away enough for 'green' to be forgotten. Similarly the legislation will remain long after the hype dies away, preventing a return to the 'old way and forcing change in companies that might not otherwise of considered green products.

 

Message me with any questions / problems. I did a similar study for my dissertation - I love this kind of stuff! Might be able to throw some source material your way too if I know what stage your at and what your looking for.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest JACK8D

Adamqc, really helpfull comment greatully appreciated, will get back to you in more detail tomorrow,

 

Cheers,

 

Jack

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest kaiza

A few of my friends have covered/are covering this topic for research papers.

 

Greenwashing sums up a lot of this stuff: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenwash

 

I also wanted to agree with Adamgc - most companies will only do something if there sound financial reasoning behind it. An interesting take on this would be to investigate what effects the development of a carbon trading/offset scheme in various countries will have on companies (although I guess it would have to be implemented in China to see a real effect).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I hate to crush your views of the world, but the bottom line is this:

 

A corporation is an entity with no soul. It exists for the purposes of making money. When it fails to make money, it ceases to exist.

 

PEOPLE in that corporation can push for green initiatives, people in that corporation can recycle, but the COMPANYS only purpose is to make money. In a group of hundreds or even tens of thousands of people you can't realistically expect every individual to care about making a difference in the world.

 

Luckily as designers we have a massive amount of power in pushing our agenda forward. I agree that some is greenwashing, but as the field matures companies will be putting forward real initiatives into conserving energy and reducing their crap output.

 

Unfortunately for every 1 good company there will still be 10 bad companies in China offsetting it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest JACK8D

Cyberdemon,

 

Your not crushing my views of the world, I have quite a grounded view of what companies stands for (having spent a year in China you come to terms with it!)

 

The reason they exist, your right it is MONEY!! dollars, pounds, euros, whatever! if the can see the money going in the till not many companies really have a conscious so to speak. If this wasnt the case they would become charities.

 

The point im looking at though is not this. But wether some of these companies are actually going out of their way and using the green issue as a marketing technique, to positively increase sales and mislead joe bloggs the consumer?

 

Cheers for everyones help so far by the way, your all spot on with your comments

 

Jack.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The point im looking at though is not this. But wether some of these companies are actually going out of their way and using the green issue as a marketing technique, to positively increase sales and mislead joe bloggs the consumer?

 

I'm sure some are. Other companies may be "inflating" their contributions by saying "We recycled 10,000 tons of paper" but not saying "but we also disposed of 20,000 tons of old computers to the lowest bidder chinese vendor".

 

Theres a lot of different companies out there and each is using the whole "Green" thing in different ways. A lot of the big corporations are pushing it and making sure people know about it. Good PR for them, good vibes for their customers, and a little bit good for mother earth.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm almost certain that most traditionally "normal" companies that have turned green haven't done it because of the pretty blue eyes of environmentalists. They have probably done some kind of cost-benefit analysis of the entire subject, and in many cases probably with the conclusion that some of the added costs of making greener products are are evened out by the value added to the brand of the company. (Again money is an important factor)

 

But I believe that some companies also have a genuine vision to constantly improve their green situation - but as everyone says here - it must be a part of an economic logic. You don't go green, just to go green. There are several other motives.

 

/tbroen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest David Field

I think the previous reply from tbroen sums it up very nicely.

 

A good area to explore on this topic is that of the UK supermarkets. They are all currently working to get customers to reuse their carrier bags. This is good for their corporate image but it also saves them money at the same time.

 

With regard to shop fittings in the retail industry, with ever higher cost of energy, materials with lower carbon footprints are often cheaper. For example MDF and chipboard will have a lower carbon footprint and cost than an equivalent area of steel. The challenge to us designers is to fabricate, join and finish these more environmental materials to provide an end product that looks the part and is economic to assemble complete with all its finishes. As consumers become more environmentally aware, this gives us more scope in new designs .... the public becomes more accepting of less decoration for example less chrome finishes and more natural finishes and natural materials.

 

Plastics, although made from oil, often have a lower carbon footprint than steel too. But then more custom tooling may typically be required than an equivalent folded metal part. Often the tooling will pay its way though and I think we are going to see more corporations open to suggestions on how to be more environmental with regard to their product designs. More effort is required in the design process though and its not just about alternative materials it could just be a mater of using a thinner material or cutting out unnecessary components. It is up to us designers to research, devise and then show companies the possibilities.

 

I don't know what the retailers true views are on the subject of wasteful retail packaging. UK's Asda (Wallmart owned) was doing a trial where customers were invited to return to the store what they viewed to be wasteful packaging but the trail was stopped.

 

I don't know about packaging, but from what I have seen with regard to product design, I think on balance, big corporations prefer to be environmental when they have the choice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Buff

over a third of toy factories closed in China this year due to the ecconomic downturn

 

those fatories that are surving and even thriving are the ones compling with ISO: 9000 and ISO: 1400

 

Many of the better factories in Asia re adopting lean principles at the core of their management structure

 

China is competing on a global scale like everone else, and many factories in Europe have won back business from China and China is responding to that threat.

 

It is almost certainly the case that ISO compliance is as a result of a need to compete

 

that said, there is real bottom line benifits to be had by adopting a PROPERLY deployed lean polocy, you only need look to the past 50 years of Toyota history to see that and by comparison the histories of FOrd, GM and Chrysler, the once hearleded "big three"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest AutomóvilVerde

I think companies do it for both reasons. They do want to save the environment, it's like when they give big donations to charities and stuff like that.

 

But to them profitability is more important. It is a advertising strategy since the big talk, other than the economy, is green. and I don't blame them, it's a smart move since they are going to have to do it in the future anyway because of the stricter environmental policies. It also saves them tons of money, especially in big companies. The can reuse electricity bills, the materials used in a product, toxic chemicals the use can be replaced with environmentally friendly ones that are cheaper.

 

They also do it for the image. Now Ford, GM, and Chrysler are viewed as companies who make big, gas guzzling cars. Now they are trying to advertise as green companies. If you noticed car ads in 2008 were all about mpg, not luxury and speed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.