A Theory of Human Motivation

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The purpose of this paper is to review the history of "green marketing" since the early 1990s and to provide a critique of both theory and practice in order to understand how the marketing discipline may yet contribute to progress towards greater sustainability. The paper examines elements of green marketing theory and practice over the past 15 years by employing the logic of the classic paper from 1985 "Has marketing failed, or was it never really tried" of seeking to identify "false marketings" that have hampered progress. That much of what has been commonly referred to as "green marketing" has been underpinned by neither a marketing, nor an environmental, philosophy. Five types of misconceived green marketing are identified and analyzed: green spinning, green selling, green harvesting, enviropreneur marketing and compliance marketing

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Purpose - To review the history of "green marketing" since the early 1990s and to provide a critique of both theory and practice in order to understand how the marketing discipline may yet contribute to progress towards greater sustainability.

Design/methodology/approach - The paper examines elements of green marketing theory and practice over the past 15 years by employing the logic of the classic paper from 1985 "Has marketing failed, or was it never really tried" of seeking to identify "false marketings" that have hampered progress.

Findings - That much of what has been commonly referred to as "green marketing" has been underpinned by neither a marketing, nor an environmental, philosophy. Five types of misconceived green marketing are identified and analysed: green spinning, green selling, green harvesting, enviropreneur marketing and compliance marketing.

Practical implications - Provides an alternative viewpoint on a much researched, but still poorly understood area of marketing, and explains why the anticipated "green revolution" in marketing prefaced by market research findings, has not more radically changed products and markets in practice.

Originality/value - Helps readers to understand why progress towards a more sustainable economy has proved so difficult, and outlines some of the more radical changes in thought and practice that marketing will need to adopt before it can make a substantive contribution towards greater sustainability.

Keywords Green marketing, Sustainable development, Consumer behaviour

Paper type Conceptual paper

Introduction

What has happened to "green marketing[1]"? In these early years of the new millennium, it is now some 18 years on from the Brundtland Report and the "euphoric" discovery of the environment by marketing practitioners and academics. Over those years, we have seen much research, many product launches and campaigns, and many books, papers and conferences. Despite all this, green marketing gives the impression of having significantly underachieved. Even to the most casual observer, the 1990s largely disappointed in their billing as the decade that would precipitate a "green revolution" in marketing. That decade began with eminently hopeful forecasts about the emergence of a "green tide" (Vandermerwe and Oliff, 1990) of consumers and new products. Yet, this has clearly not materialised as expected. Instead, consumers have become disillusioned; many of the groundbreaking green products produced by specialist firms have left the market; the dramatic growth in green product introductions at the beginning of the 1990s has subsided; and companies have become cautious about launching environmentally-based communications campaigns for fear of being accused of "green washing".

This poses the question about what type of "story" the history of green marketing to date represents. Is it a tragic story of failure, or of a prophecy concerning the long-term future of marketing whose time has not yet come? Would it be better catalogued under "myths and legends", or will it be best remembered for its elements...
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