Is It Really Possible To Green Direct Mail?

The Green Marketing Coalition has new guidelines that, well, don\'t do much.

That’s the topic of the New York Times article this morning titled, “Direct Mail Tries to Go Green. No, Really.” The initiative, while admirable in its effort, is a bit dubious to say the least. It is headed up by the Green Marketing Coalition and they have introduced a few ways to help lighten the carbon footprint of those who insist upon using direct mail for marketing purposes.

Don’t get me wrong, I too agree that direct mail is an effective way to reach potential customers, and I encourage my clients to use it in select circumstances. But, like others quoted in the Times article, I’m a bit skeptical of the effectiveness of the Green Marketing Coalition’s efforts. You can download a copy of their “Recommended Guidelines” at their site and see what I mean. Among the recommendations they list:

    Purchase recycled paper.
    Choose vendors and partners with internal environmental initiatives.
    Use UV printing presses and comply with hazardous waste disposal standards.
    Improve “list hygiene.”
    Proof and edit using PDF files rather than hard copies.
    Use chlorine-free, recycled paper. (this seems like a redundant point)
    Benefit from tax savings by going green.

These recommendations are good ones, but to me they seem a little obvious. Shouldn’t direct marketers be doing this already? And the last “guideline,” “Companies can benefit from the tax savings associated with going green,” seems like where their real efforts lie.

According to Spyro Kourtis, president of the Hacker Group as quoted in the Times article,

“This industry just didn’t have any real green standards.”

Well, at least they’re doing something. But we’re not living and working in a vacuum here. The guidelines were developed with the help of the above-mentioned Hacker Group, which is a direct marketing firm. One has to wonder why direct email or other types of electronic marketing aren’t on their guidelines. Obviously they’re protecting their own interests, but if this were truly a broad-based initiative to really green direct marketing and do more than just greenwash and reap some tax breaks, their guidelines could easily go beyond printed junk mail.

I have to agree with the conclusion of the Times article:

“So far, the coalition’s guidelines are long on earnestness and short on truly new ideas.”


Green Gap Survey Says: Americans Misunderstand Environmental Marketing

No kidding.

That was the title of an article on LOHAS Online last Friday. What I find most remarkable about that title is that I truly believe most Americans don’t understand marketing. Period. But while I tend to believe that most people are skeptical of marketing in general and advertising in particular, the 2008 Green Gap Survey, conducted by Cone LLC and The Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship shows that

“…almost half (48%) of the population erroneously believes a product marketed as “green” or “environmentally friendly” has a positive (i.e., beneficial) impact on the environment.”

The article points out several interesting statistics, not the least interesting completely contradicting the title of the article: “61 percent of Americans say they understand the environmental terms companies use in their advertising.”