Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Marketing Green, But Made in China

Every now and then a green product supplier will send me something by snail mail. Last week I received a coffee mug from a faucet supplier. I turned the cup over and saw the familiar "Made in China" sticker. It got me thinking how far that coffee cup must have traveled just to get to my door, and how much energy was spent getting it there. While it was a nice gesture by the supplier, it ran counter to its green message.

This past weekend while chatting with suppliers at the International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show, I encountered a common theme: "green" suppliers getting their raw materials or their entire products from China. I spoke with one vendor who has used the environment as a marketing theme for years. I asked him where a key component of his product is made. You guessed it: China. Another vendor had a sign at her booth touting the eco-friendly nature of her product. What she sells is all made in China.

I understand the realities of a global economy but some of the things I saw at the show just did not sit right. If you are going to paint your company as "green," it is important to tell customers and potential customers the entire story. What I saw was not entirely greenwashing but it is a form of it. The next time you attend a trade show and stop at an exhibit pushing a "green" product, ask some hard questions. It just might get the vendor to think a little harder about sourcing its materials closer to home.

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