Becoming rightfully green : how industrial companies legitimate their green brands for their customers?
1University of Oulu, Oulu Business School, Department of Marketing, Marketing
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Oulu : J. Erkkonen,
Industrial companies are heavily tied together with environmental sustainability, whether they wanted it or not. Manufacturers and suppliers are both required to adapt for changing environmental regulations that affect their operations. Becoming more sustainable, and meeting environmental legislative minimum requirements is a requirement for staying operational. When most of the companies are forced to slowly become more sustainable, the challenge is trying to stand out from them. While avoiding the stigma of a greenwasher, how can these industrial companies’ brands become rightfully green?
Purpose of this study is to find ways how industrial suppliers can legitimate their green brands for their B2B customers. Sustainability issues that are important for consumers, might not be similarly viewed in industrial business-to-business relationships. That is why studying industrial companies in their own ecosystems is important, rather than comparing them directly to consumer markets. In addition, this study aims to integrate literature from sustainable industrial branding, and literature from legitimacy and legitimation which have been scarcely combined with B2B branding.
Empirical data of this study was collected from 19 theme interviews. An engine manufacturer was selected as the focal company for this study, and two of its forest machine manufacturer customers were selected representing the customer’s viewpoint. Individual persons were interviewed from multiple roles and departments of these companies varying between product developers, account managers and purchasers, managers, and persons in director roles. From their own industries, studied companies gave a good representation of brands in a journey towards greenness.
Based on this study, several physical, non-physical, and mixture of physical and non-physical sources of green brand legitimacy were found. Especially unique findings were elements of nature such as facilities constructed out of wood, and sense of pureness and cleanliness of production facilities. In addition, nine strategies for justifying green brands were identified. These nine strategies were named as the following: rhetoric sustainability, nature elements, mimicking, external validation, certification, project participation, internal acceptance, pureness, and supervision. Findings of this study are relevant for industrial suppliers in their journey of justifying their green brands for their customers.
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