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The Analysis of Green Marketing Strategy in Fashion Based on the Stakeholder Theory: Company, Consumer and Environmental Organization

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Introduction

Green is becoming the mainstream. When the fact that the fashion industry has become the second largest polluting industry, of which fast fashion has made a huge impact (Chavero, 2017), is discovered, many fashion companies which use toxic chemicals, produce lots of waste and pollute the environment have been facing serious problems. To build better brand impression on consumers, promoting a series of marketing strategies which is related to green has become more popular among those companies. This might include advocating green consuming, producing and advertising green products as well as encouraging everyone to lead a green life. Two fast fashion brands, H&M and MUJI, launched fair-trade products and organic collections is a typical example of applying green marketing strategy (Choi et al., 2012). It may somewhat arouse social attention and response. However, the actual effect of these green marketing strategies needs evaluation. This paper will analyze the green marketing strategy in fashion from three stakeholders’ view in detail as well as provide some suggestions on its application.

The stakeholders of green marketing in fashion

The stakeholder theory

“Stakeholder” refers to the individual or group that can affect or is affected by the performance of a company, such as, customers, suppliers, governments, employees and owners (Freeman, 2010). Companies that have a deeper understanding of who their stakeholders are, what they want as well as how they are going to get there, probably have better management skills, which is the main part of stakeholder theory (Frooman,1999). This framework connects the management with business ethics, creating a new method to understand management theory (Parmar et al., 2010).

Parmar et al. (2010) also compare the stakeholder theory to “a genre of management theory” to discuss the variety of uses. It is a framework that can summarize the commonality as well as contain diversity, which means that it allows different uses in various conditions.

Green marketing

According to American Marketing Association (2017), green marketing means that the development and promotion of products is environmentally safe, which includes production, promotion, packaging and reclaiming process. Stanton and Futrell (1987) explain this from the view of purpose ---- the activities of green marketing are used to fulfill human needs with the lowest impact on the natural environment. These statements show that the core of green marketing is to protect the environment.

As Bashir, Yousaf and Wani (2016) discussed, green marketing emerged because of people’s concerns about the environment and future of our planet, which then drew the attention of industrialized nations that gave pressure on companies to be ecologically friendly. In recent years, as more consumers start to change their consumption concepts, such as, trusting the brands gradually, regarding services and being more focus on the value (Ottman, 2017), this strategy has become more popular. From the ethic aspect, it is also a tool of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) that can increase profits and competitive advantages of companies (Bashir, Yousaf & Wani, 2016).

Stakeholders of green marketing in fashion

According to Ottman (2017) as well as the definition of stakeholder above, nearly everyone is a stakeholder in green marketing, including, customers, employees, environmentalists, government, investors, children and even the unborn. To facilitate follow-up analysis, the classification of the relevant stakeholders is needed.

Durmaz and Yasar (2016) explain that green marketing idea is developed in companies because of government policies and environmental organization’s pressure, which indicates that company is one of the main stakeholders in green marketing in fashion. The term “company” here contains every entity that is the part of fashion company, including employee, company owner, competitor, supplier, manufacturer and so on.

The starting point of green marketing strategy is protecting the environment, thus the voice of the environmental organization is quite important, for it can give more professional evaluations on the actual effects of green marketing strategy.

Green marketing strategy is a way to gain competitive power for fashion companies, which means that high consumer satisfaction is crucial. Companies satisfy their consumers by meeting their values, providing good services and qualified products. Thus, consumer is also an important cluster that facilitates the generation of green marketing and affects the profits and reputation of fashion company.

In many professional sustainability related papers, government is always considered as a significant stakeholder. However, the role of government in green marketing in fashion is not the point in this paper, for the green marketers usually operate without government assistance and there is no certification for green marketing practitioners (Ottman, 2017).

The analysis of green marketing strategy in fashion based on three stakeholders

Company

The fashion companies that use green marketing strategy can leave socially responsible and environmental concerned impressions to consumers, of which Patagonia is a typical example. Patagonia donates 1% of sales to the grassroots environmental organizations and participates in “1% For the Planet” league and has already provided 89,000,000 dollars to relevant organizations and the number is still growing (Patagonia, 2018). It does not loss money, instead the fashion company shows its care for the environment, thus more people are willing to pay as well as employees have a more comfortable life.

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Another kind of example is that the company pay more attention to designs that may convey the environment protection idea, rather than using ecological-friendly materials, such as choosing patchwork as the main motif because patchwork means recycling and reusing. This idea is quite popular among fashion companies today because it can combine fashion and ecology concept without much green cost as well as arouse attention within a certain period, but may be not conductive to the long-term development of green marketing.

One concern from some fashion company is that applying green marketing strategy can somewhat increase the production cost of the products because of using new raw materials, research and development, detection, disposing waste, using some techniques and donations. Because of this, some of them may quit this strategy, while others may try another way----“greenwashing”.

If a company claims that it uses organic materials, correctly disposes toxic chemicals and follows a sustainable production line, but does not achieve actually, it is called “greenwashing”. This concept refers to companies that overstate their antipollution efforts purposely by providing misinformation to gain more attention from consumers (Zellweger, 2017). This is not a rare green marketing phenomenon in fashion industry today. Take the example of H&M that is cited at the beginning. The company claims that it uses green materials and tries to build a sustainable image. But it is then exposed that it burns 12 tons of redundant clothing every year. The failed green marketing incident like this can decrease the image of the fashion company immensely, may causing the loss of consumer trust. When the fashion company completely regards the green marketing strategy as a tool to earn money, fail to meet consumer’s high expectations and neglect the benefit of environmental organization, it tends to result in serious financial losses (Walker & Wan, 2012).

Environmental organization

There are quite a lot of environmental organizations, some of them devoted in fashion industry, such as Clean Clothes Campaign and Centre for Sustainable Fashion. Although the working directions are different, the aims of these organizations are similar, making improvements to the ecology and human through observations and researches. Environmental organization often serves as a bridge connecting fashion companies and environment. They can supervise the green marketing of companies, whether they meet the emission standards and whether their techniques are effective, and provide some suggestions for them to improve. Fashion companies also donate funds to the organizations to participate in protecting the environment.

Consumer

There are different attitudes among consumers to green marketing, some may support, while others cannot accept or have no feelings. But according to Lee (2011), consumer’s concern to the environment has increased observably during the past few years, which becomes one of the major factors in consumer decision making, indicating that their interests to green marketing is rising. Anguelov (2016) also discusses that consumers have high environmental and social issues awareness. These concerns and awareness somewhat promote the development of green marketing because consumers who have more knowledge about fashion industry prefer to support ethical business practices through their purchases (Shen, Wang, Lo & Shum, 2012). It also makes them easier to identify the facticity of companies’ claims and less likely to be duped, which also pushes the companies to do better (Lee, 2011).

[bookmark: _Hlk24507960]Consumers usually do not simply pay attention to the green garment itself, but focus on every aspect of the fashion company and expect that all of them can accord with “green”, sustainability and responsibility. For example, the situation of sweatshop labor is their most important concern when making apparel purchase decisions (Tomolillo and Shaw, 2004). It is a kind of generalized “green” perception. This phenomenon is might because once the fashion company uses green marketing strategy and advocates being “green”, it declares that it is a responsible company and can arouse close attention from external environment, which can give it pressure to provide better quality clothes to some extent.

Discussions and suggestions

The green marketing strategy in fashion companies today is becoming more popular but not mature. More companies are trying to apply green marketing strategies but only some of them achieve the goals. Despite of the “greenwashing” that discussed above, the appropriate choice of the strategies is also quite significant. When making green marketing strategies, it is necessary to take the target consumer and the brand positioning into consideration. Fashion companies that have different target markets and different positionings can have different choices of green marketing strategies. For most of the common fashion companies, their green marketing strategies usually emphasize on one part of the whole technique, for example, from the raw material aspect, Zara and MUJI use organic cotton, while from the recycle aspect, H&M uses coupons to convince consumers to bring their old clothes instead of throwing them away. Another kind of green marketing is achieving green roundly. Companies like Patagonia keep the “green” concept throughout its production, using recycled plastic, donating funds to environment organizations and recycling old clothes. And by doing green marketing concentratedly, it has a specific loyal customer, even American President is proud of wearing it.

The information that the fashion companies provide should be the truth. Because of the attention from consumer and environmental organizations, “greenwashing” is neither a permanent way to make money for the companies, nor a correct choice to protect the environment. Fashion companies should pay more attention to seek new green marketing strategies, such as developing new materials and production methods and trying new marketing skills.

The environmental organizations should also support green marketing in fashion, and give pressure to the companies to ensure promotion facticity.

Although consumers’ cognitions of green marketing are different, with the improvement of their ecology concerns, green marketing in fashion will receive more attention and support, which is also positive for them to choose green products.

Conclusion

This essay explains the possible effects of application of green marketing strategy to fashion companies, environmental organizations and consumers, providing a reference for the companies to choose proper strategies. Although there might be some problems, such as increasing the production cost and greenwashing, it is certain that the starting point of green marketing is protecting our planet, thus from the sustainable view, the implement of green marketing strategy needs to be deep and abiding. Because of the limitation of statistics and information, this essay may lack of deeper analysis of these three stakeholders. More marketing researches can be conducted in the future to increase the depth. Due to the varying quality of green garments, there are quite a lot of voices of green marketing. No matter what their attitudes are, fashion companies cannot give up because of challenges while environmental organizations and consumers cannot be tired, for the problems have already exposed and it is the time for progress. Only when green marketing is developed healthily can the environment be in a positive cycle.

Reference list:

  1. American Marketing Association. (2017). Definitions of Marketing. Retrieved from https://www.ama.org/the-definition-of-marketing-what-is-marketing/
  2. Anguelov, N. (2015). The dirty side of the garment industry: Fast fashion and its negative impact on environment and Society. CRC Press.
  3. Bashir, M., Yousaf, A., & Wani, A. A. (2016). Green Marketing & CSR: A Proactive & Innovative Tool to Gain Competitive Excellence. Journal of Supply Chain Management Systems, 5(2).
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  7. Durmaz, Y., & Yaşar, H. V. (2016). Green Marketing and Benefits to Business. Business and Management Studies, 2(2), 64-71.
  8. Freeman, R. E. (2010). Strategic management: A stakeholder approach. Cambridge university press.
  9. [bookmark: _Hlk23990834]Frooman, J. (1999). Stakeholder influence strategies. Academy of management review, 24(2), 191-205.
  10. Lee, S. (2011). Consumers’ value, environmental consciousness, and willingness to pay more toward green-apparel products. Journal of Global Fashion Marketing, 2(3), 161-169.
  11. Ottman, J. (2017). The new rules of green marketing: Strategies, tools, and inspiration for sustainable branding. Routledge.
  12. Parmar, B. L., Freeman, R. E., Harrison, J. S., Wicks, A. C., Purnell, L., & De Colle, S. (2010). Stakeholder theory: The state of the art. The academy of management annals, 4(1), 403-445.
  13. Patagonia. (2018). 1% for the Planet. Retrieved from https://www.patagonia.com/one-percent-for-the-planet.html
  14. Stanton, W.J. & Futrell, C. (1987). Fundamentals of Marketing, 8th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  15. Shen, B., Wang, Y., Lo, C. K., & Shum, M. (2012). The impact of ethical fashion on consumer purchase behavior. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management: An International Journal, 16(2), 234-245.
  16. Walker, K., & Wan, F. (2012). The harm of symbolic actions and green-washing: Corporate actions and communications on environmental performance and their financial implications. Journal of business ethics, 109(2), 227-242.
  17. Zellweger, T. (2017). The Dark Side of Fast Fashion-: In Search of Consumers’ Rationale Behind the Continued Consumption of Fast Fashion.
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The Analysis of Green Marketing Strategy in Fashion Based on the Stakeholder Theory: Company, Consumer and Environmental Organization. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 1, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-analysis-of-green-marketing-strategy-in-fashion-based-on-the-stakeholder-theory-company-consumer-and-environmental-organization/
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