Some companies have thrived by marketing product lines as environmentally correct or "green." A prime example is Body Shop, a cosmetics company that is strongly and explicitly pro-environment with regard to its products. It strives, for instance, to develop products made with substances derived from threatened tropical rain forests so that they can be preserved.
The American ice cream manufacturer, Ben and Jerry's, has adopted a similar approach to using rain forest products in what it sells. Mercury- and cadmium-free batteries have been marketed by Varta, a German company. Ecover, a small Belgian company, made major sales gains when it began to market a line of phosphate-free detergents . Wal-Mart is another company that provides its customers with green products. Loblaw, a Canadian grocery chain, has introduced a "green-line" of environmentallyfriendly products and has sold more than twice the amount than it had initially projected. Seventh Generation, a mail-order company based in California, has successfully marketed its own line of recycled toilet paper, biodegradable soaps and cleansers, and phosphate-free laundry and dishwashing detergent.
Many factors comprise a green product. The product has to be made with the fewest raw materials and produced with the least amount of contaminants released into the environment and with the smallest effect on human health.
Consideration must also be given to how consumers will use the product and how they will dispose of it when they are finished. To reduce its waste potential, a product must often last a significant amount of time or be reusable or recyclable.
As consumers become more aware of environmental issues, they will likely look to producers and governments to provide more products that will permit them to maintain a life-style that is less harmful to the environment. Therefore, the very nature of products will have to change. They will have to be lighter, smaller, and more durable so that they can consume fewer resources in their production and use and take up less space when they are disposed of.
Ultimately, a real revolution in the use of green products would mean replacing or substantially modifying virtually the capital stock of society—appliances, automobiles, housing, highways, etc.—with a different type of product. In contrast to old smokestack industries, new technologies and emerging industries—such as telecommunications, computers, and information—should be able to offer products that are less environmentally harmful. They should be able to produce many new types of green products and modify existing products so that they are less damaging to the environment.
[Alfred A. Marcus ]
Buchholz, R., A. Marcus, and J. Post. Managing Environmental Issues. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1992.
Cairncross, F. Costing the Earth. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1992.