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New companies sprout up to help marketers reach green businesses

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As green becomes a more vibrant hue in corporate America, new media and marketing companies are emerging to help b-to-b marketers reach an expanding pool of environmentally conscious buyers.

In the last year, the following companies, solely dedicated to the green marketplace, have opened up shop:

  • Greener World Media debuted in February with several e-newsletters and Web sites, including GreenBiz.com and ClimateBiz.com. The company, led by former Primedia Business senior executive Pete May as president-publisher, has an aggressive growth plan for Web sites, multimedia channels and a social networking platform.
  • Trade show organizer Green Media Enterprises was launched in June. The company expects its inaugural events, Green West and Green East, to draw 400 green exhibitors when they debut next year in Los Angeles and New York, respectively.
  • Earth Advertising, established in April, provides public relations, brand strategy, e-media and advertising for companies that want to enhance their green branding. The company is an offshoot of pioneering green marketing company eFlicks Media, which was launched in Boston and Los Angeles in 1997.

The emergence of environmentally focused media and marketing companies comes amid increased efforts by both the public and private sectors to cut carbon dioxide emissions and encourage the development and use of alternative sources of energy.

For instance, President Bush has called for plans to reduce Americans' use of gasoline by 20% during the next decade. In June the United States Climate Action Partnership, which includes many of the world's largest corporations and leading environmental groups, expanded its membership to 29 organizations.

The group, whose members include Deere & Co., General Electric Co., Siemens Corp. and the Natural Resources Defense Council, has called for a nationwide limit on carbon dioxide emissions that would lead to a reduction of 10% to 30% over the next 15 years.

However, while green increasingly is going mainstream and more companies realize that protecting the environment makes good business sense, efforts to bring green buyers and sellers together are still in the embryonic stage.

"There's a strong marketing push to help customers be cleaner in their business and more efficient, but it hasn't always been positioned in environmental terms," said Joel Makower, executive editor at Greener World Media. "In the consumer space, there's a lot of feel-good [green] marketing without a lot of substance but, in the b-to-b world, it's about doing business better and creating more tangible value propositions."

In addition to GreenBiz.com (210,000 unique monthly visitors), the company's properties include GreenerBuildings.com (40,000 unique monthly visitors), ClimateBiz.com (10,000 unique monthly visitors) and GreenerComputing (10,000 unique monthly visitors). There are several other green-related e-newsletters in the pipeline as well as plans to produce events, Makower said.

Sponsors of Greener World Media products include BP, GM., Green Mountain Energy Co., IBM Corp., Intel Corp., Johnson Controls and Waste Management.

"Green means different things to all companies," May said. "There isn't a company out there that isn't positioning green marketing in one way or another."

Martha Shaw, president of Earth Advertising, expects b-to-b marketers will generate about 50% of her business. "The demand for recycled material is a booming business, whether it's glass, aluminum, paper—and even electronics," she said. "In b-to-b, [green marketing] is all about economic incentives."

Yet b-to-b companies that are eager to communicate their commitment to the environment have to be careful that any green messaging doesn't fall into a gray area.

"They have to get the message right," said Russ Meyer, chief strategy officer of the Americas for branding agency Landor Associates. "Companies have to figure out where they are having a positive impact on the environment and then start the marketing effort."

Kyle Cahill, manager of corporate partnerships for Environmental Defense, a nonprofit organization whose partners include DuPont, FedEx Corp. and PHH Arva, said that before b-to-b companies embark on green marketing campaigns they must first undertake a comprehensive internal audit of their environmental efforts.

"We always counsel companies that it makes sense to get your own house in order prior to touting any green attributes in products and services," Cahill said. "They have to take a holistic view of their green objectives."

Green issues and objectives have clearly moved beyond companies' environmental, health and safety departments to the enterprise as a whole, industry observers say.

"The interesting thing about green is it cuts across business categories, whether it's b-to-b or b-to-c," said Suzanna Rosemont, VP-marketing at Green Media Enterprises. "B-to-b companies need to purchase green products synergistically rather than through silos."

Rosemont said businesses now "are much savvier about green buying than even a couple of years ago, so any green marketing that is window-dressing will be quickly exposed."

Green West and Green East, each expected to draw 15,000 attendees, plan to showcase a wide variety of environmentally friendly products and services, such as architectural and engineering services, building materials, green electronics/IT, home and office furnishings, renewable energy/alternative power and transportation.

Green Media Enterprises sees the two events as springboards into other media targeting the green marketplace, such as print, online and continuing education, Rosemont said.

Canon Communications, a major trade show organizer in the advanced manufacturing space, next year will add a new focus on green manufacturing to each of its four co-located manufacturing and design trade shows.

"More people are interested in buying machines that are going to make their companies more efficient and downstream improve the environment," said Kevin O'Keefe, VP-events at Canon.

While green marketing is gathering momentum, Greener World Media's Makower said there's no guarantee the sailing will be smooth.

"It's not easy stuff," he said. "Green marketing is fraught with challenges, not the least of which is how good do you have to be to call your company a green company."

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