I would like to invent a word. Who would not? If it has nine letters you might even get a mention in Dictionary Corner, a real bonus for anyone in email marketing. How cool would that be? The bad news is that greenwash, derived from either or both whitewash and hogwash, has been taken.
The word means making out that a product has some degree of environmentally friendly, eco-style legitimacy when it hasn’t. Purporting that it is so is either a direct lie or cannot be proven. Whilst people painting their houses green on the outside might disagree, the word is self-explanatory.
Has it any effect on those of us engaged in email marketing? Is it of concern to those on your emails lists? The answer is: definitely.
The public will pay extra for goods they believe have been ethically produced and you ignore the green pound at your peril. But there is a big problem. Only 10% believe green information from producers of such products and government. This shows that you ignore the intelligence of those on your email lists at your peril as well.
This lack of confidence hurts email marketing. You need to be able to justify the higher price but if consumers lack confidence in what you say then you are wasting your time and your email.
Enter the Direct Marketing Association, Europe’s largest trade association. They have issued a new, their 4th, code of practice, one part of which deals with greenwash, which they define as:
“The use of data hygiene, making environmental claims in marketing materials, sourcing sustainable paper, certification in environmental standards such as PAS 2020, adhering to corporate environmental policy and using recycling messages on printed materials.”
It would be wrong to consider this yet another pointless restriction on your ability to market your goods. Many would feel that such clarification is long overdue. They are ‘only’ guidelines but if you are a member of the DMA then you must comply. Further, there is every possibility of something similar becoming law.
The main requirement is a high level of substantiation for any claims of greenness. Such claims must be based on the full life cycle of the advertised product, unless the marketing communication states otherwise.
This gives email marketing a chance to be aggressive. Tell those on your email lists that you conform to all the requirements, that your claims can be substantiated and they can buy with confidence. Have an explanation of the DMA code of practice and evidence to support the environmental credentials of your product available via click-through.
The basic method of distribution for email marketing has a marketable value. Electronic mail is significantly more environmentally friendly that direct mail. The DMA code requires that it should not only be the message that is backed up but the medium in which the message is distributed. Take care though. It is not entirely emissions free. But the fact that it is significantly better should be explained.
The DMA code is available only online and can be viewed on: ww.dma.org.uk