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Can we get away with the ‘Green’ Deal?

When dealing with issues of sustainability it would seem that construction marketers have their work cut out for them on many levels.

Not only do we have to persuade a cynical market that our products really are as ‘green’ as we claim, but we have to do it without falling foul of the regulators. As delegates at the latest CIMCIG seminar heard, just mentioning the word ‘green’ could be enough to incur their wrath.

The 60-plus audience was particularly keen to hear how they could make the Green Deal work for their companies. Liz Male of Liz Male Consulting took the audience through the dos and mostly don’ts of making green claims.

The two biggest sins were highlighted as “making claims with no proof to back them up” and “making claims for green products made by dirty producers”. As of March 2011 it’s not even safe to make such claims in the privacy of your own website.

Defra has produced a useful guide on making environmental claims and the summary can be found at here. The full Green Claims Guidance is also available on their website. For the moment at least, the Defra Green Claims Guidance is voluntary, providing guidance on best practice; however, that could change if marketers don’t take their responsibilities seriously.

So what can we say that doesn’t leave us with accusations of greenwashing? Anything we like, just as long as it doesn’t mention ‘sustainability’ or a myriad of other suitably vague terms that relate to all things green and wholesome.

On the subject of the Green Deal itself, there was much debate about what it would mean for small businesses. Brian Berry of the Federation of Master Builders gave us an insight into how the FMB is working closely with government advisers to maximise the opportunities for their members.

With the potential for big retail and the utilities to flood into the post-Green Deal housing market, it was suggested that this could present a major marketing challenge for small builders.

However, the FMB sees the Green Deal as a great opportunity for their members to step up to the challenge, win back consumer confidence, and take their fair share of the market.

They have localism on their side and, with the promise of better accreditation, warranties and the new Green Deal advisers, they stand a better chance of competing.

Finally, with industry on board the next hurdle is persuading the consumer market that they really do want to be more environmentally responsible. Paul White of The Social Marketing Practice gave us his view on how actively changing consumer behaviours could help to support the Green Deal.

It’s about influencing social behaviours by enabling, engaging and encouraging change. As he put it, the Green Deal will probably help with ‘the way’ but not necessarily ‘the will’, as people essentially want change that fits the environment into their lifestyle rather than the other way around.

It will all come to pass in October 2012 and we as construction marketers will need to be ready. Last year, CIMCIG produced a report which highlighted the need to encourage the consumer to adopt sustainable measures in the home.

Following on from that, this year’s report - Taking Sustainability to the Consumer - will look at some of the mechanisms to achieve this. For more details, visit the CIMCIG website.

Deborah Rowe, principal consultant of Sheba Marketing, is a member of the organising committee for the Chartered Institute of Marketing Construction Industry Group (CIMCIG).


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