Marketers such as Unilever may soon have to find space on the packages of their 70,000+ SKUs to indicate the “carbon footprint” of each product. What such a logo or label would denote remains to be determined. It would be an attempt to associate a product with a favorable concept a la “natural,” “organic,” or, “socially beneficial.” Potentially it could augment the brand’s positioning – rather than an occasional nagging worry about impending climate disaster, a consumer could perform a pantry check for the reassuring logo.
Some consumer brands are talking in their Marcom and social media as if they take climate change seriously. Public announcements by The likes of mega carbon-emitters Ford and General Motors have announced that they will stop producing gasoline or diesel powered passenger cars by 2030 and 2035 respectively. Apple, which could probably afford the transition costs of carbon neutrality, has pledged to do so by 2030. Amazon recently asserted that it had become the largest buyer of renewable energy in the US https://bit.ly/3hzUsKA. Others without a clear alternative to business as usual, such as ExxonMobil, seem to view carbon foot-print as marketing exercise.
Will the consumer notice? Will she be convinced and if so will she care enough to reward the low carbon-footprint brands? Or will this branding effort be viewed as just an attempt at green-washing.
Just Show Them The Money:
BlackRock, the world’s largest investor, recently launched a U.S. Carbon Transition Readiness ETF to invest in companies, which will outperform in a low-carbon environment.
Investors seem to have noticed. Morningstar reports that in the US attracted a record $21.5 billion of net new investment in Q1 2021. This was more than double the inflows in Q1 2020 and five times the investment in Q1 2019
Is this really low carbon investing? Rationally, carbon-footprint should include all the expenditures from the inception, extraction, creation, distribution, marketing, and disposal of the a product. Capturing all those impacts may be as difficult as capturing carbon in the real world.
Absent generally recognized metrics, low carbon footprint will be as easy to claim as it will be difficult to achieve. Even an iconic low carbon product such as Tesla may not be all that low depending on the impacts of the lithium mining to produce its batteries and the source of electricity to charge them. Still, Tesla clearly owns the position as a low-carbon brand. Its branding is greatly enhanced by the marketing prowess of its mercurial chairman, Elon Musk.
Like many of Musk’s pronouncements, Tesla gained significant notice, when it announced it would not accept bitcoin in payment after all because of the high carbon footprint of Bitcoin mining.
Tesla is to some extend a projection of its mercurial chairman Elon Musk. It garnered some attention and enhanced its technology with it position, when it recently made a 1.5 billion “investment” in Bitcoin and announced that it would accept bitcoin as payment for its cars. Musk then rapidly reversed course, declaring that the climate impact of cryptocurrencies was too great and thus Tesla would not accept Bitcoin as payment after all.
* “What number did you have in mind.”