The following is an interview with Carolyn Parrs, CEO of Mind over Markets, by Concept Green for their sustainability spotlight series.
As part of our sustainability spotlight series, we are pleased to speak with Carolyn Parrs, CEO of Mind Over Markets and founder of Women Of Green, a blog and podcast dedicated to turning up the volume on the feminine voice in green.
Concept Green: Can you tell us more about “green” marketing?
Carolyn Parrs: Green marketing goes beyond the promotion of a product or service. It also addresses how a product is actually made — the ingredients used, the energy it takes to make or transport, the packaging, the production, and the processes. All of this is considered when crafting the story or message communicated in green marketing. This is why a green product or service can be a definite competitive advantage — especially if it incorporates what we call the “3 E’s” of green marketing.
CG: What are the “3 Es” of green marketing?
Parrs: The “3 Es” of green marketing stand for ecology, economy and efficacy. The first “E” is ecology. It’s what started this whole movement toward green products and sustainability in business. It’s the cornerstone of this industry however it’s not necessary the “message” a company should lead with. People rarely buy a product or service to “save the planet”. They buy because of the next 2 E’s.
So the second “E” is economy, and it is often the most important for many businesses. This is where they focus on how sustainability can effect their bottom line, and in turn save their customers money — from reducing costs of manufacturing and distribution through product innovation or design, to reinventing a whole product category. For instance, more Prius’ were sold when gas hit $4.00 a gallon than any other time before it.
The final “E” is efficacy, which is critically important to consumers. In the early days, many products in the marketplace called themselves green, but they didn’t work. Consumers tried them but never bought them again. This hurt the business. That is why efficacy is so important today for businesses in this space. First and foremost, your product or service has to work the same or better than a conventional one. It needs to not only to be green, but great. That’s why we spell green with 3 E’s at Mind Over Markets.
CG: What kinds of companies and brands do you work with?
Parrs: A full spectrum. From companies that are distinctly green through and through, to others that have a green initiative or product and want to effectively message in this emerging field. For instance, we work with “deep green” companies, those that have fully embedded sustainable and socially responsible practices throughout all aspects of their business. Positive Energy Solar is a great example of a deep green company we have worked with.
We also work with “medium green” companies that have green initiatives or are seeking to reach segments of consumers who value sustainability in one or more of its many facets. These companies have to look at their existing practices and values to figure out how to package their environmentally sustainable and socially responsible operations. A perfect example is PALNET, a wood pallet manufacturer. PALNET’S competitive green marketing advantage starts with how they make their product from scrap wood that would normally end up in a landfill. Their story gets even better — after they use and reuse their pallets, at the end of its lifecycle, they grind them into gardening mulch. A real cradle to cradle story. The marketing message that we helped them form was “PALNET: The greenest link in your supply chain”. This message helped them win significant contracts from companies seeking to increase their sustainability efforts through their supply chain.
The last kind of business on the green spectrum is the “light green” company. For them, it can often be a challenge to make the sustainable and socially responsible elements of their business visible without the threat of greenwashing. As a green marketer, my job is not only to help them craft their message, but guide the company into meaningful sustainability practices so that their marketing is authentic.
CG: How is social media changing the way you do business and bring attention to green products and brands?
Parrs: Social media is dramatically changing the way that businesses and organizations inform and engage customers. As an example of this, 18 months ago we launched a Facebook page for our client, Growstone, a horticulture growing medium made out of recycled glass. Our goal was to link their online strategy with offline action by growers and supporters. We wanted to encourage them to go into hydroponic stores and ask for Growstone. It worked. In a year and a half, we grew our tribe to 25,000 fans through a solid strategy based on engagement. Engagement is what social media is all about. It is so important that marketers and companies understand that the focus of their social media be their customer, not their product or service.
CG: You are well known as the founder of the Women Of Green blog and podcast. Why are the voices of women so critical in leading a transition towards sustainability?
Parrs: They don’t call it Mother Earth for nothing! Women Of Green started as a podcast. I wanted to amplify the voices and stories of women leading in this field. As a business and marketing coach, I heard story after story of women who were, in their own quiet way, creating change in their homes, communities and world. Women Of Green was my way of getting their stories and views out there. These stories need to be told. We women buy 80 percent of the consumer goods in the United States. That’s over 5 trillion dollars a year. We have the power in the marketplace to vote with our dollars. This collective power can change the world. I call it “disruptive buy-ology”.
Unfortunately in the business world, women only hold 15 percent of the executive-level positions. Changing the role of women in business is a big ship to turn, but with time and attention we can make it happen.
Carolyn will be a speaker on Friday, November 8 at Concept Green’s two-day Santa Fe Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Certified Sustainability Reporting Course held November 7-8, 2013. The course covers the G4, the latest version of the GRI guidelines, the world’s most widely used standard for sustainability reporting.
October in Austin: Two-day G4 GRI Certified Training course October 22-23 at The UT Austin LBJ School of Public Affairs.
November in Santa Fe: Two-day G4 GRI Certified Training course November 7-8 at Santa Fe Community Foundation HUB for Social Innovation.
Registration and additional information: Visit http://isosgroup.com/gri-certified-reporting/trainings/ and select Austin or Santa Fe training courses, or call 619.246.1122 to register by phone.