The recent Earth Day celebration brought a slew of often-conflicting reports on consumers’ environmental or green attitudes and behavior, such as “consumers cut spending on green,” “green worth paying more for,” “Americans hate faux green marketers,” and “[Boomers] passionate for green.” Green marketing initiatives were also everywhere, from Jet Blue’s “One Thing That’s Green” pledge to Procter & Gamble’s “My Carbon Footprint” app and Target’s eco-conscious “Refresh Your Nest” home makeover sweepstakes. Faced with this barrage of information and activities, many marketing leaders will be asking themselves what this means for their brand. Should they bide their time until the dust settles, or jump in? What about the risks of green-washing? Do consumers really care about the environment, or is it just something that they think they should care about? In truth, there is no one answer, because green marketing and green consumer behavior is changing rapidly. That being said, the expectation for companies to be more sustainable, from consumers and CEOs alike, is not going anywhere. So marketing leaders need to figure out what level of green engagement is right for their brand and their consumer.     

In my report “How Green Does Your Brand Need to Be?” I found that green marketing is on the rise, in support of increased consumer environmental consciousness. Consumer demand for green products is now mainstream, and green marketing is heating up — and with it, increased scrutiny of green claims. To navigate this risk-reward tightrope, I provide a road map for making your brand greener: level 1, getting started with corporate sustainability plans and communications; level 2, differentiating with consumer-relevant green product benefits; and level 3, leading with innovation, investment, and commitment for bold sustainability goals.

What do you make of all these green reports? Are they consistent with what you are hearing from your consumers? Do you see a real opportunity or just hype as brands jump on the green bandwagon? How are you adapting your brand to go green?