Three things you can expect in April: the Easter Bunny, rain and a heap of green advertising. The 2011 Earth Day celebration will take place on April 22nd and will bring out the best in organizations promoting their most creative green strides. It is also a time when PR professionals are expected to promote and communicate green initiatives, even if they have no environmental familiarity.
In order to communicate effectively, professionals must reconcile environmental jargon, complex issues, such as global warming, and their organization’s relationship with environmental regulations. Inability to consider these concepts can hinder the communication of the message and make a company susceptible to greenwashing criticism. The capitalist temptation to generate profit from Earth Day marketing can also pose the threat of greenwashing backlash.
The New York Times summarized the problem saying, “So strong was the anti-busines sentiment for the First Earth Day in 1970 that organizer’s took no money from corporations and held teach-ins ‘to challenge corporate and government leaders’…Forty years later, the day has turned into a premier marketing platform for selling a variety of goods and services, like office products, Greek yogurt and eco-dentistry.”
The slew of green marketing begs the question – are organizations simply doing good or capitalizing on it? I can think of various holidays that allow companies to make a buck, but eco-minded consumers and the planet should not be exploited. The best campaigns raise awareness rather than capitalize on the opportunity by offering environmental incentives with a purchase. However, there are some organizations that have learned to perfect this balance.
The Earth Day Nice List:
- Starbucks - When you bring a travel cup into your local Starbucks on April 22nd, you will receive free coffee or tea. This promotion encourages less paper and plastic consumption, while complimenting Starbuck’s continuous environmental responsibility.
- Target – You could win the ‘Refresh Your Nest’ sweepstakes and receive a $50,000 sustainable home makeover. Also, the stores are highlighting green products during the entire month of April.
- IKEA – The IKEA store in Tempe, Arizona is offering free breakfast and a T-shirt to anyone who bikes to work or school on April 22nd. In addition, by bringing your used plastic bags into the store you will receive a free reusable shopping bag.
While commitment to sustainability goes beyond being green for one day, Earth Day offers a global opportunity to stop and think about how your organization affects the environment, and the steps that you can take to become more environmentally responsible.