Green. The colour of envy, Olympic diving pools in Rio and wicked witches of both Eastern and Western persuasions. Not to mention Kermit the Frog… which I won’t.
In the decades since it dawned on humanity (well, some of it) that we might possibly be causing some rather substantial harm to the only planet we can actually live on, this emerald interloper has taken on a whole new identity. Not so much a colour now as a movement.
Like so many virtuous notions, marketing has been quick to embrace the idea of “environmentally friendly”. Everything from Tuna to light-bulbs has been given a lustrous coat of greenwash.
Applying a coat of paint to make something more attractive is hardly new. Add in dodgy nightclub lighting and you have the sorry recipe for many a chagrined awakening.
I once had a car which was more filler than real bodywork, and the importance of concealment and cover up – style over substance you might say – is something that was brought home to me on travelling through Eastern Europe shortly after the Berlin Wall came down.
Our journey took us down a broad boulevard. On both sides blocks of flats, all brightly painted, lined the way.
But on looking more closely it was apparent that further down those side streets the buildings were grey and in disrepair. We found out that a dignitary from the west had paid a visit recently, and the authorities had ensured that the first few buildings looked fantastic, safe in the knowledge that so long as their motorcade kept to a reasonable speed the grim reality beyond would remain invisible.
This old trick is still employed by governments of a certain persuasion today. They tend to be the ones with “People’s Republic” in their names.
Last summer China was hosting the G20 summit in Shanghai. We’re all aware that turning off a light when leaving a room is good for the environment. But how about turning off all the power to several hundred square miles of industrial heartland?
So concerned were China that the assembled dignitaries would have their enjoyment of Shanghai spoilt by the small matter of the heavy smog caused by emissions from factories that they simply closed them for the duration of the summit, and a good period before it.
With Shanghai and its surrounds being home to many competitive sources of supply for companies in the promotional industry the result was a sudden, unexpected and unavoidable cessation of production.
For time sensitive orders this could of course be catastrophic. It’s one reason we at Zest always look to have a back-up plan in a geographically disparate location, so if there is a natural, or in this case governmental disaster, there’s an alternative to switch to. In the end, minor delays to one airfreight shipment (oh, yes, did I mention they grounded all the planes too) was the limit of the inconvenience we and our clients were caused.
Tragically it seems that environmental worries might get worse before they get better. Recent electoral outcomes seem set to reverse a lot of the progress made, and it is all too easy to succumb to a pervasive sense of futility.
Perhaps now more than ever the only way to change the big things is by changing the little ones. If governments won’t modify their behaviours individual purchasers still can.
Sales promotion recognises this, and there are now sustainable, recycled and environmentally friendly options for a huge range of marketing products.
So embrace your inner Kermit. Make the Earth green again.