Thursday, 30 August 2012

Sustainability Marketing (2nd ed): 'New and Improved'

Frank, Ken and the team at Wiley are pleased and proud to announce the publication of the Second Edition of ‘Sustainability Marketing: A Global Perspective. Like any second edition it represents an evolution from the first edition, and the changes reflect some of the significant developments since 2009 in relation to sustainability and marketing. This is also expressed in the title cover, which is similar, and yet different and distinct:

We were really pleased with how the original edition was received by lecturers, students, companies and researchers, and many of them provided feedback and ideas that we have been able to incorporate in the new edition. Hereby we would like to thank everyone who has provided comments and ideas and pointed us towards interesting cases and companies! 

The new edition is slightly longer than the first, and we have used the additional space to enable the book to more fully live up to our ambition to take a ‘Global Perspective’. It includes cases from a more diverse range of countries than before, and provides an overview of differences and developments in sustainability marketing in key regions and countries as part of the second, context setting, chapter (Europe, North America, Africa, South America, Middle East, Asia). Some new sustainability marketing stories and challenges include the following: 

The structure of the book remains the same as the first edition, which will hopefully come as a relief to those teachers who have already structured a course and teaching materials based around it. The range of industries we’ve explored through the cases and examples has expanded to include more on marketing within sustainable fashion, ecotourism, consumer electronics and cosmetics amongst others. We have also tried to capture some of the significant cultural trends that have gained prominence since the first edition was published, taking in topics such as open sustainability innovation, collaborative consumption, and even the dark arts of online ‘astroturfing’. We will be looking to release updated teaching materials to support the second edition very soon, and will be revitalizing this blog to support the book with ongoing coverage of sustainability marketing news stories, controversies and further examples to supplement the contents of the book – so, watch this space .....

The phrase “New and Improved” has been criticised as the most over-used cliché in the entire world of marketing, but in the case of our second edition, we would like to think it is literally true. We still have high hopes that marketing managers within companies, and the managers of the future currently learning about marketing, will read the new edition of the book and be willing and able to take the ideas and perspectives that it presents and apply them in the ‘real world’ of marketing practice. One of the most gratifying responses we had to the first edition was when the Director responsibility for Sustainability Marketing at one of the World’s biggest company emailed us saying 

“I have been avidly reading it over the last several days and am finding it more and more appropriate to the challenge I am facing within our global organization - how to leverage the reach and relationships our brands have with consumers to make a positive difference in the world ...and equally importantly, how to institutionalize this thinking into our 'way of marketing'.” 

That was the moment when knew that our book was doing something more than just adding to the debate, and that it was helping to make a real difference to the way marketing is taught, learnt and practiced.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Green Apple: Challenges at the Core of Sustainable Design

This was a mistake“, wrote Bob Mansfield, Apple’s Vice President of hardware engineering, in an open letter on July 13, 2012. What was a mistake? What has happened? Just a week before that Apple announced that it has withdrawn all Mac products from the EPEAT certification and that it will no longer submit items for review.

EPEAT stands for Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, which addresses all stages of the life cycle from cradle to grave of electronics:
  • Reduction/elimination of environmentally sensitive materials
  • Material selection
  • Design for end of life
  • Product longevity/life extension
  • Energy conservation
  • End-of-life management
  • Packaging, and
  • Corporate performance.
For an entertaining and yet informative introduction to the entire life cycle and the environmental impacts see the “Story of Electronics” by Annie Leonard. EPEAT was developed in an open innovation process, involving designers, manufacturers, and purchasers of electronic products as well as governmental organisations and non governmental organisations (with Apple Computers being one of the participants along with the California Integrated Waste Management Board, Dell Computers, Electronic Industries Alliance, Hewlett Packard, State of Massachusetts, Tufts University, U.S. EPA, U.S. Government, United Recycling Industries, Waste Management, and Zero Waste Alliance). The EPEAT system rates electronic products against the eight environmental performance criteria listed above. Since electronics experience high rates of change in components and sourcing from product launch through to the end of their commercial lives, (pre-) certification based on a one-time investigation is not considered adequate. Instead EPEAT requires manufacturers to commit to providing accurate information throughout their product’s lifecycle and to remedying any inaccuracies discovered during the verification process. In this respect EPEAT is a self-declaration system. It enables manufacturers to participate in an easy-to-use and global registry that allows them to demonstrate their commitment to greener design (in a way that does not delay time to market). It also provides purchasers with a platform that allows them to find electronic products that reduce environmental impact and energy costs (in comparison to competition). Thus, EPEAT tries to reduce information asymmetries between producers and users, and to create (some) transparency regarding environmental criteria in the global market for electronics.

To cut a long story short: Apple has helped in developing the environmental standards and setting up the non-profit organization to run the scheme since 2003 and then it announced its withdrawal in July 2012. The likely reason behind this change of heart is Apple’s current MacBook Pro with a Retina display, which does not adhere to EPEAT recyclability and repair standards. The new display is bonded to the outer casing, which makes it thinner, but which also reduces the ability of the display to be recycled. Moreover, the glued-in and sealed battery is harder to replace. The example shows the difficulties of sustainable design. Sometimes customer and environmental criteria may go hand in hand (e.g. energy-efficiency of electronics during the usage stage). However, in this case the customer’s desire for thin and slim laptops seems to be in conflict with environmental criteria like recyclability and repair. 

Why did Apple withdraw from its withdrawal within a week? In this respect Bob Mansfield says:
We’ve recently heard from many loyal Apple customers who were disappointed to learn that we had removed our products from the EPEAT rating system. 
Customers wrote emails to Apple, discussed it in online communities, and made public announcements. The city of San Francisco, for example, was the first one to halt Mac purchases, and the US government also mulled dropping Apple computers in the wake of EPEAT issues. Thus, with the prospect of losing customers Apple decided to rejoin the EPEAT program …

The case of Apple shows that sustainable design (like sustainability marketing) is not an easy proposition and a one way-street. There are potential complementarities and conflicts between what customers want and environmental criteria. However, once an environmental system is in place and accepted by most market players, it is difficult to fall behind the taken-for-granted design and product standards - even for leading companies like Apple.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Marketing Electric Cars (I)

These are exciting times for the automotive industry. The dominance of cars with internal combustion engines (ICE) is being challenged by electric cars. In many leading markets like Germany, Japan and North America electric cars are entering the playing field. In the first edition of our text book “Sustainability Marketing: A Global Perspective” we have already presented the cases of the Tesla Roadster (a full electric car) and the Toyota Prius (a hybrid car). In the upcoming months during summer 2012 we will describe and discuss the marketing of electric cars in a series of posts on our sustainability marketing blog. We will see that electric cars raise interesting questions for sustainability marketers all over the world. Electric cars are radical and disruptive technologies, which will (probably) change the way cars are perceived, sold and used.

In the first present post we will define electric cars: What do we mean, when we talk about “electric cars”? In spring 2012 there are all kinds of electric cars available on international markets, including hybrids with electric engines as well as electric cars with and without range extenders. So, how do we define “electric cars”? Where do we draw the line between hybrid and electric cars?

Most of the leading automotive companies pursue a hybrid strategy of electrification without abandoning ICEs. A first step on this road is the use of small electric engines and batteries, which support the start-up process of the car and which recovers energy during the braking of the car (“mild hybrid”). The second step towards electrification is the employment of larger batteries and electric engines, which are more powerful (and usually more expensive!). The “full hybrid” allows driving short distances at low speed with the electric engine only (e.g. Toyota Prius). Similar to the mild hybrid, energy is recovered during the braking process.

“Plug in-hybrids” are full hybrids, which use rechargeable batteries that can be charged by connecting a plug to an external power source (e.g. Chevrolet Volt). Electric Cars with a range extender mainly rely on large, powerful batteries and electric engines. In the case of longer distances a conventional engine is used as a range extender (e.g. Opel Ampera). Similar to the plug-in hybrid, the battery is recharged by connecting the plug to an external source. Full electric cars abandon ICEs altogether (e.g. BYD e6, Mia electric, Mitsibushi iMIEV, Nissan LEAF, Peugeot iOn, Renault Z.E., Smart ED, Tesla Roadster).

The following exhibit shows conventional cars with ICEs and electric cars without ICEs as the two extreme poles. The importance of ICEs diminishes from the left to the right hand side (or vice versa: The relevance of electric engines increases from the left to the right hand side). Mild and full hybrids are on the left hand side, because they still rely on ICEs. Plug-in hybrids and electric cars with range extender are positioned on the right hand side, because they mainly rely on powerful electric engines and externally rechargeable batteries. In accordance with nationaldevelopment plan “Electromobility 2020” by the German government we draw the line in the middle and characterize electric cars as cars employing powerful electric engines and larger batteries, which can be recharged by plugging it to an external energy source.

Exhibit: Conventional, Hybrid and Electric Cars

In the next post we will discuss the ‘nature’ of electric cars: How ecological are they? What are the major factors influencing the environmental performance of electric cars? What do the latest Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) say about electric cars in comparison to conventional cars with ICEs? As emphasized in chapter 3 of our text book “Sustainability Marketing”, LCA is a very important instrument for sustainability marketing. Understanding the main socio-ecological issues involved with conventional and electric cars is crucial for credible automotive marketing. Making a (false) claim like “zero emissions” may easily be exposed as “greenwashing” and backfire. As said in the beginning: These are interesting and exciting times … Stay tuned!