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This essay attempts to analyse the ways in which pressure on organisations to integrate sustainability into their strategic thinking is fundamentally changing the nature of marketing.
Historically, business- marketing, have worked to benefit shareholders through maximise of business profits. Issues like environmental considerations and responsibilities towards consumers and employees have traditionally been relegated to second place. The one key premise of business has been 'big is good' (Friedman, 2002). Market distortion created by price controls and financial support has further aggravate the achievement of environmental objectives. The main responsibility of business was augmentation of profits, Nobel Laureate, Milton Friedman, in his book Capitalism and Freedom describe the "social responsibility" of business to be a "fundamentally subversive doctrine". He state that "there is one and only one social responsibility of business-to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud" (Friedman, 2002).
Such philosophy is perhaps one of the best evidenced in the business actions of giants like MacDonald's, BritishAmericanTobacco and BP. McDonald's, even as it continues to be hugely popular, is one of the major causes of obesity in the USA. The Lord Justices Pill, in McDonald's Restaurants, said that is fair to say that 'if one eats enough McDonald's food, one's diet may well become high in fat, with the very real risk ofÂ heart disease" (McSpotlight, 1999). British American Tobacco (BAT) has every time sais that the company works in the best interest of the people. BAT has to improve their image and decline tobacco control measures, invested in community development programme such as campaigns against youth smoking. (Mallenbaker.net, 2002). Continuing escape oil and the resulting environmental damage caused by British Petroleum have debunked its widely advertised claim of 'Beyond Petroleum. The company has in recent years been penalised more than once for major pollution problems (Mallenbaker.net, 2007).
Companies like Bacardi in their campaigns says 'sorry with Nikkie' and 'You don't want to spoil a great party' have purpose to teach young people to drink with responsibility through educations campaigns (European Centre, 2009). British mining company Vedanta has been targeted by Amnesty International, London Mining Network and others for its wrong Corporate Social Responsibilities practices. Almost all operations criticised because their causing environmental damage to local communities. Fearing a serious threat to their eco-system, peoples in the Niyamgiri Hill in India have strongly opposed against Vedanta bid for mining rights in that area (Rahul, 2009). According to Butler (2010) biotechnology and genetically modified foods follow profitable objects, even as they campaign for promotion of technology will help to improve world hunger (Butler, 2010).
Despite the presence of such well-known anti-environmental business proclivities, many modern business firms are adopting a new approach for development of sustainable business and marketing operations. Changing attitudes towards corporate social responsibility, governance, and environmental sustainability, shifting consumer awareness and trends, preventative activities by Greenpeace, Fair-trade Labelling Organisation (FLO) and other organisations are influences this trend (Jones et al, 2008). Firms are become increasingly aware of their social responsibilities to people, consumers, investors, employees and the media on the areas in which carries out their operations. Such changed impacting on marketing strategies and leading to more and more ethical business processes and actions (Jones et al, 2008).
Below is going to be analyse the marketing objectives of business corporations, ongoing changes in their marketing sensibilities and strategies, factors and agencies that are influencing such changes, the manner in which many firms are changing track in their marketing operations and the resultant impact of such changes on the environment.
Historical and Contemporary Marketing Objectives
The marketing objectives of a company are been influenced by factors like their product and pricing objectives, advertising and sales, profits, market promotion and share, competitive advantage, and objectives for keep alive the firm and growth (Weinreich, 2006). The visualisation and practice of a "Corporate Vision" is being considered the most important factor in a successful marketing. Effective marketing strategies such as monitoring marketing objectives and goals, planning and research, analysing and anticipating competitor schemes in order to identifying customers needs and delivering benefits that enhancing consumers benefits and result in improve business earnings (Weinreich, 2006).
The main objective of business is usually be focused on making more profit and less attention is been given to environmental issues or to responsibilities towards employees and consumers (Friedman, 2002).
Soft drink giants Coca Cola faced a massive complaint in Plachimda, Kerala India. Protestors demand criminal actions against the company for serious environmental violations extreme removal of ground water, throwing away of toxic waste and resulting reduction and poisoning of water, and damage to health and property (Mallenbaker.net, 2007). Tobacco companies continue to push their products to customers, despite their awareness of their health risks. British American Tobacco faces sizeable law suits even as a US federal judge has ordered cigarette maker R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc. to pay $15 million in penalizing damages to a smoker whose legs been cut off. (Mallenbaker.net, 2002).
A series of environmental crises like the recent oil drop in the sea, the earlier spill in Alaska and the Texas factory explosion have been marked British Petroleum's corporate. According to Mallenbaker (2007) the Federal Court of Nigeria's ruling in 2007 put an end to gas flaring in the Iwherekan community (Mallenbaker.net, 2007).
Changes in Business Attitudes towards Green Issues
Recent years have witness changes in such traditional business approaches with 'Green Business' which is becoming an increasingly important business objective. These changes gaining currency faster in advanced in western nations, where companies becoming increasingly aware of the social responsibility aspect of business. Many companies actively adopting sustainable and responsible business practices. Marketing strategies are changing and being reposition to accommodate these demands (Rivero-Camino, 2007).
The greenest approach to business and marketing is being influenced by several factors such as (a) increasing awareness of alarming environmental degradation,(b) effects of climate change, (c) increased competition, (d)greater selectiveness and demands of customers and the rise of green or ecological consumers, (e) greater influence of shareholders, (f)governmental regulations,(g) development of Corporate Social Responsibility,(h) Fair-trade (i) Greenpeace campaigns and actions, and (j) the media (Rivero-Camino, 2007).
Many major companies, particularly in the western world are trying to control their positioning in the domestic and to international markets by integrating 'sustainability' into their organisational philosophies as well as those of their chain-partners (Jones, et al, 2008). Increasing awareness and concern about the environment is prompting a rush in company proposals that aim to encourage pro-environmental behaviour, with current marketing efforts concentrating on sustainable consumption (Jones, et al, 2008).
CSR evolution can connected to the rise in ethical consumerism. CSR considerations in the present scenario are encouraging companies to examine not only their own practices, but that of their entire supply chain. The adoption of successful CSR methodologies is giving all companies, be they in hamburgers, petroleum, fashion, IT and etc, better market advantages and improved public support (Jones, et al, 2008).
TESCO's environmental practices being specifically lauded by CSR experts and the media. The company has consciously adopted green marketing in their corporate vision and is engaging environmentally sustainable actions (Tesco.com, 2010). Tesco's stores illumination is now powered by wind turbines. The company has also incorporated a ten point programme into the new business strategy, which includes reduction of energy consumption in Tesco's buildings, doubling recycled matter, using degradable bags, labelling products with nutritional value, educating parents about healthier food choices for their children, reducing noise by decreasing deliveries to Express convenience stores, seeking more feedback before constructing new stores, easy accessibility for small suppliers, selling more local produce and introduction of regional counters, and the last one is to sponsoring walking, cycling and running events (Tesco.com, 2010). McDonald's have developed healthier menus and are now providing new diet-conscious options as well as improved choices for children at their outlets (News Max Wires, 2004).
Obama administration has through a recent directive impose limits on greenhouse gas emission from cars and light trucks. Hail by environmentalists, the ruling encourages production of hybrid and electric cars and vehicles that burn alternative fuels (BBC, 2009). Many European countries and American taken cognizance of the in human practice of raising wild animals in captivity for their fur and have restricted or banned the practice of fur farmingÂ (Humane Society..., 2010). British Petroleum has renew it commitment to the environment aspects of its operations by development of several safety and sustainable environmental technology in their campaign 'Beyond Petroleum' (Mallenbaker.net, 2007).
Non-governmental organizations like Greenpeace and FLO are also taking increasing role in changing and modifying corporate behaviour, leveraging the power of the media and internet. Through a series of campaigns, actions, education and dialogue, these organizations are holding business responsible for their actions (Jones, et al, 2008). Nestlé's claim that breast milk substitutes 'protect' babies drew severe public criticism and protests. The company has, through an email campaign has been asked to withdraw its 'protect' logo, which advocates the use of breast milk substitutes (Bowen, 2010).
Whilst some companies are actually been employed sustainable and good business practices, others are suspected of using marketing jargon to manipulate consumers into believing that their products are actually greener than they are supposed to be (Jones, et al, 2008). Such 'green washing' has led government bodies such as the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK to closely monitor marketing claims. Green marketing efforts are matched (Jones, et al, 2008) feel, by an equal rise in claims of green washing by activists and others.
Major corporations like BAT, BP and McDonalds have been accused of engaging high profile CSR programmes to divert the attention from their existing problems due to core business activities (Mallenbaker.net, 2007). BAT takes part in health initiatives and BP has installed enormous wind-turbines on some petrol station roofs in the UK. Whilst the tobacco regulation act of 2003 prohibits elaborate paid-media marketing, cigarette companies have found a way to avoid this ban by advertising on area based television and radio (Fonbuena, 2009). Whilst Coca Cola and McDonald's revamped their marketing strategy, there is a small evidence to suggest that they have used their collective resources and money to improve the nutritional value of their meals. This in turn has led to accusations of 'green wash' in their marketing strategy (Jones, et al, 2008).
The marketing objectives of businesses have historically focused on maximisation of profits, to the exclusion of other factors like environmental considerations and responsibilities towards consumers, employees and suppliers. Such business attitudes are perhaps best evidenced by the actions of business majors like British Petroleum, British American Tobacco, Vedanta, Bacardi and McDonalds, who work on the pivotal premise of 'big is good'.
Many companies, despite such tendencies, are initiating and implementing new green business and marketing strategies. Factors like improvement in corporate social responsibility and governance, environmental sustainability, shifting consumer awareness and trends, preventative activities by Greenpeace, Fair-trade Labelling Organisation (FLO) and other non-governmental groups are influencing such changes in marketing strategy.
Companies are increasingly incorporating Corporate Social Responsibility imperatives into business strategy and practice. This is bringing into focus their responsibilities towards the environment, consumers, stakeholders, employees and the media. Such changed sensibilities are also impacting on marketing strategies and leading to more ethical and environmentally sustainable business processes and marketing actions.
Whilst companies like TESCO, BP, McDonalds and BAT and others from a range of industries have consciously incorporated CSR practices into their strategies and policies, much needs to be done to sustain these changes.
Many 'green wash' allegations are however taking place against companies that use marketing jargon to manipulate consumers into believing that their products are greener than they actually are. Several oil spills and safety irregularities have in recent years tarnished British Petroleum's commitment to the environment. Similarly, Coca Cola, BAT, McDonald have also been accused of engaging in high profile CSR programmes to divert attention from problems arising out of their core business activities.
While large strides are being taken by corporations world to integrate sustainable thinking into their business and marketing practices, much remains to be done by companies and regulatory authorities to ensure that sustainability in business and marketing becomes a global practice and that companies are prevented from making untrue claims.