Saving our planet; one bag at a time

May 16, 2007

Green is coola than eva…

Filed under: Branding, Environment — Kaajal @ 5:02 pm

Green is coola than eva

Its so gratifying that after years of “selling” the idea of eco-friendly reusable bags to find myself in a position to look around me and find I don’t need to add anything to the attention the issue is already getting.

But some perspective does appear necessary.

Lloyd Kerry of Charlottetown in Canada supports the idea of using reusable grocery bags, but suggests they should be free, reports The Guardian.

Lloyd’s raised a fascinating issue, particularly from the marketing and branding perspectives. Reusable bags a must, yes. But what kind? Cheap ones or nice ones?

Today, most people are either already convinced or on their way to being convinced that plastic bags are an impractical and harmful way to take our shopping home and alternatives have to be found and used.

Some folks have tried to find the cheapest alternatives. This usually takes the form of a nonwoven polypropylene shopper that started being used in Australia and has quickly been adopted in many parts of the world (see this bag at

But the material this bag is made from polypropylene, a substance that isn’t biodegradable and is a burden on both, the earth and our limited oil supplies because it is made from a petroleum derivative.

Yes, it is reusable, but it isn’t very resistant to tear so it does come apart rather easily. Then you have to throw it away.

The other approach has been to revel in the pleasure of being right and to do it with style and aplomb by using well crafted and stitched cotton canvas and jute canvas bags. Yes, these are too expensive to be given away free, but the user derives so much more joy from using them, they feel so right, and also last so much longer than the cheaper polypropylene shoppers that these are actually a lot cheaper when you compare over a few months.You can read more about this on :

Many people don’t stop there – take Anya Hindmarch’s “I’m not a plastic bag” for instance. Launched at Sainsbury’s at £5 it immediately sold out and has now appeared on ebay at £200 plus.

Is it just the bag or the issue that is giving it its value?

There isn’t a simple, obvious answer available for that. The issue is becoming ever more complex as consumers begin to take more control over the marketplace and leverage their purchasing strength to make the market conform to their values.

Britain’s “ethical consumer” market was worth US$ 44 billion in 2003, according to researchers for American Express. The company estimates 1.5 million “conscience consumers” in the UK today, and expects four million by 2009.

“What we are seeing,” one researcher reported to Amex, “is a blurring of moral, social and lifestyle issues that is unprecedented. Brands can no longer separate their profits from how they make them.”

While 33% of British consumers in the survey identified themselves as “conscience consumers”, only 8% described themselves as “apolitical shoppers” who completely ignored the social implications of their consumption.

It’s a phenomenon savvy marketers are beginning to take note of.

The Daily Mail says that consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact they’re having.

“Not so long ago, a good day’s shopping was represented by unbridled credit card abuse and armfuls of carrier bags — preferably glossy paper ones with smart rope handles. Today, shopping for the sheer pleasure of it is no longer enough. We want more than something new and pretty to take home - we want to know we made the world a better place by buying it and that the bag we’re carrying didn’t damage the environment”.

Carrying a visibly eco-friendly bag now has the kind of cachet that carrying an expensive designer bag does, that such concern puts you into the bracket of people like Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Roberts.

Professor Gerald Zaltman has written a book called “How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market”. That, as we all agree, is the Holy Grail. That’s where purchase decisions are made.

The trick, says Professor Zaltman, is to look for relevant, basic emotions that have been overlooked by other brands in the category.

Hmmm, you might think, as I did, what would be the relevant emotions my business could look for, stuff that my competition is overlooking?

An article by Professor Mukti Khaire answers our question. She believes growth comes from by developing intangible social resources such as legitimacy, status, and reputation.

Kind of answers the question, doesn’t it? Now what can you do that would confer these attributes to your business?

Plastic bags are doing untold harm to our planet and your stakeholders are fast becoming more aware of this. Making available reusable fabric bags in any manner – whether you give them away as premiums, distribute them at trade shows and events or even sell them at cost –will get you the positive image attributes Prof Khaire talks about.

Can a simple bag achieve this kind of impact? Ask yourself what YOU think of businesses that do a lot of common good even while promoting themselves. That will answer your question.

See what the big guys are doing: Unilever Group CEO Patrick Cescau believes the successful brands of will be those that not only satisfy consumers’ functional needs but also address concerns as citizens.

The group is developing a new process that enables a full analysis of social, economic and environmental issues relevant to each brand to be built into brand innovation and development strategies. Unilever terms it as ‘Brand Imprint’, which is being piloted with a number of its key brands.

Clearly, the time to act is here.

Thomas L. Friedman, world affairs correspondent for the New York Times and author of the book “The World is Flat” recently said that if he were the editor of Time magazine, his year ending cover would be a green colored one which says “Colour of the Year”.

He believes we reached the tipping point this year, and that green issues are now totally and irrevocably mainstream. Wal-Mart, in addition to using green to improve its image, also finds that being more energy efficient is highly profitable for itself and its customers. Politicians no longer consider green issues of interest only to elite audiences.

Now living, acting, designing, investing and manufacturing green has come to be understood by a critical mass of citizens, entrepreneurs and officials as the most patriotic, capitalistic, geopolitical, healthy and competitive thing they could do.

Politicians agree. Peter Ainsworth, Britain’s Shadow Environment Secretary for example.

Here are some numbers Peter quotes to make his point: “2006 was the year that consumers spent more on ethical goods than on beer and cigarettes - £29 billion on consumer goods alone.

So business, consumers and government appear, for the first time, to be getting serious about sustainability. Political parties of all colours raced to out green each other. We are genuinely at a tipping point”.

The Financial Times, London in a recent article quote the heads of AMV BBDO, JWT, Ogilvy, RKCR/Y&R and Saatchi & Saatchi as saying they believe green advertising will grow in the next 12 months.

Lee Daley, chairman and chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi UK, said: “Brands will not be able to opt out of this. Companies which do not live by a green protocol will be financially damaged because consumers will punish them. In the longer term, I do not think they will survive.”

But they sound a cautionary note. They warn companies against “rushing in” and exaggerating their environmental commitments, if they cannot substantiate them.

That’s why giving away reusable fabric bags is such a great idea. The medium itself substantiates your claim. Reinforces my belief that reusable fabric bags, particularly cotton or jute shopping bags, constitute one of the most cost effective advertising and promotional media in the world today. Just look at our line up of bags on our website and check out the prices.


  1. You obvciously have not checked how much envcironmental impact is associated with the production of canvas or cotton. Further, re-usable bags are much heavier than plastic shopping bags, and if all shoppers were to use them and keep them in their car so as not to forget them - as most do - we would be carting around thousands of tons of extra weight in out cars, b urning up more fuel.

    Everything is not as it seems!

    Gerard, Sydney, Australia

    Comment by Gerard — May 18, 2007 @ 12:30 pm

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