The first consideration for improving the green credentials of any marketing department must be the printed materials that it produces. After all, despite this theoretically being the digital age, print remains one of our major sources of communication, and not all printing is equal when it comes to eco-friendliness. In terms of environmental responsibility, it pays to seek out a source of high-quality recycled or part-recycled paper for your printing, to reduce use of virgin wood pulp. Any printing that must be done on paper made from virgin pulp should be sourced from responsibly managed forests with appropriate certification.
It is also possible to obtain papers and cards that have not been bleached, and this will automatically improve your green credentials by preventing the release of toxic chemicals into the environment. Similarly, careful consideration needs to be given to your choice of inks; though many excellent biodegradable vegetable-based inks are now available for a range of printing jobs, not all print companies are up-to-date, and many still use seriously toxic chemicals in their processes. Discuss these issues with your print company if you are concerned; you might be surprised at their response.
Many companies use printed novelties and gifts as advertising and to encourage consumer buy-in to their brands. Even these can be sourced in an eco-friendly way, although this does require some thought. Pens and pencils made from recycled drinking cups are popular, as are the new flatter pens with cardboard outers designed to be posted in ordinary envelopes. More permanent items like supermarket trolley tokens are also a better use of materials. Things to avoid include disposable, non-recyclable and non-biodegradable items like novelties in hard plastics.
Of course, one way to improve the impact of your marketing on the environment is to avoid using physical materials entirely, and to focus on digital communications. Using social networking to create virtual advertising forums is working well for many large companies, but it does require a major investment of time from the organisations involved. On a smaller scale, however, an email advertising campaign is both generally cheaper and much more environmentally sensitive than a mass-mailing, and samples targeted to consumers responding to online advertising are much less wasteful than general distribution campaigns.
Joining with other companies to create combined marketing campaigns can also provide maximum exposure with minimum ecological impact. Several non-competing companies may sponsor the same event, for example, and marketing materials can be shared between them to avoid waste and excess costs. Even better, why not consider organising this sort of joint venture in support of an ecological charity or local action group? This can be an excellent way of improving your company's ecological credibility while keeping marketing costs reasonable.
This post was written by Michael Turner, an enthusiast in home improvement, technology and design on behalf of Inlec, a test equipment hire specialist.