Saturday, November 12, 2011

Suzlon’s P.A.L campaign - “Greenwashing” or more than that?

"Will customers see Suzlon’s P.A.L campaign as “Greenwashing” or can the campaign actually engage the target segment?"


Apoorva Vaidya | IIMS

The recent “P.A.L.S.” (Pure Air Lovers Society) campaign launched by Suzlon, a leading wind power company, is one among a long list of Corporate Social Responsibility campaigns initiated by various organizations. Having such a long list would normally be a silver lining to the dark cloud created by the industry. It indicates the increased awareness among the corporate top honchos about the rapid environment degradation and their changed focus towards achieving a strong triple bottom line performance by targeted efforts to promote business growth in a sustainable manner.
Quite often, however, these campaigns are just a marketing gimmick of firms having more important hidden agendas such as gaining more recognition, increasing the recall value of the brand. Addressing social issues remains merely a by-product of these campaigns. Consider Suzlon’s latest campaign for example; although the company is trying to project itself as a firm committed to ensuring clean air and thereby protecting the environment and the eco-system, it has recently been accused of causing potential hazards to environment and natural resources in Saurashtra. It was also accused of seizing lands of tribals in Maharashtra at throwaway prices and subsequently selling it to celebrities. Even the FMCG giant HUL, whose Surf Excel - ‘Do bucket paani bachana hai’ campaign is creating buzz in the country, has been charged with accusation of causing mercury pollution in South India. Sadly, there are many more such examples.
Today, customers are becoming increasingly aware about these deceptive “greenwashing” campaigns and hence are unlikely to yield to accept Suzlon’s claims unless the firm starts ‘walking’ their talk.


Sarat Gopinath | GIM

Suzlon, one of the world’s leaders in the wind energy sector has come up with a new brand campaign called P.A.L.S (Pure Air Lovers Society). For the first time, this campaign is targeted at the youth, especially the urban youth, although youth is just a term to define the mindset of an individual and not the age. Identifying India as one of the emerging markets for wind power, Suzlon is trying to position itself as a company providing renewable energy rather than a manufacturer of turbines. Following the trends of other companies (Idea, Nokia etc.), Suzlon is launching this campaign for the betterment of the society but at the same time, this has a hidden objective which is purely business in nature.
For an average consumer who had been riddled with so many of these similar campaigns (Idea’s use mobile save paper campaign, Nokia’s “Planet ke rakhwaale” to name a few) this move would come across as just another multinational trying to project themselves as an environment friendly firm. Although it would not be possible to identify Suzlon’s motives behind this campaign, one conclusion would be that all they require is recognition. Tomorrow when they move into the fast growing Indian wind energy market, they should be recognized by the consumers. Calling this effort a “greenwashing” marketing strategy would be going a bit too far as their facilities at One Earth have been certified with the highest levels of green building certifications and their methods of generating power from wind actually makes the air a bit cleaner. But at the same time, trying to generate buzz about the company using the “green” angle would come across to the consumers as unappealing due to the clutter of companies taking this route.

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