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Marketing Mix Design-for-Environment (Dfe): A Systems Approach

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Sustainability can be visualized as a state in which the use of resources in consumption does not pollute and undermine the functioning of basic life-support ecosystems. To limit unfavorable ecosystem impacts and move towards sustainability, consumer societies have generally relied on the regulation of business facilities and processes as the primary ways and means of controlling waste, the antecedent of pollution. Through the mid-1990s, business interests generally dismissed voluntary initiatives to lessen pollution as unprofitable, altruistic exercises in social marketing. However, as we enter the 21st Century, the dimension of sustainability is exerting a much more direct influence on revenues and costs; the evaluation of sustainable marketing strategies under the standard "Total Profit = Total Revenues-Total Costs" equation is yielding more attractive results. Given marketing strategy is defined as the traditional "marketing mix[right arrow]target market" model, this suggests that the voluntary developmen t of sustainable marketing mixes by private sector firms can play a much larger role in achieving environmental improvements in the future.

MARKETING MIX: THE DELIVERY VEHICLE

The marketing mix is the delivery vehicle through which strategy is actualized. Using available information and expertise, managers customize the marketing mix in relation to given target markets by making decisions concerning (1) product, (2) place (channels), (3) promotion (communications), and (4) pricing; a systems perspective is utilized to maximize effectiveness. The inclusion of ecosystem impact as a design factor (criterion) in this process is still somewhat novel to many marketing managers. However, in order to understand the direct linkage between marketing mix decisions and ecosystem impacts, one need only observe the former cause the latter. This cause[right arrow]effect assumption is valid because marketing mix decisions directly trigger conversions of natural capital/ resources, and all such conversions generate consumption waste. And, given the resource-intensive lifestyles of the western world's consumer societies, marketing mix-induced consumption waste represents a worthy target for environmental improvement.

Sustainable marketing is defined as "... the process of planning, implementing, and controlling the development, pricing, promotion, and distribution of products in a manner that satisfies three criteria: (1) customer needs are met, (2) organizational goals are attained, and (3) the process is compatible with ecosystems" (Fuller 1999, p. 4). Its environmental goal is to operationalize "low-waste, no-negative-discharge" product systems. Under the "marketing mix[right arrow]target market" model, this means that marketing mixes must be designed with the objectives of (1) significantly reducing the generation of waste, and (2) properly managing all remaining waste discharges into ecosystems. When this is the case, the production-consumption cycle becomes sustainable because it can be replicated over time without degrading ecosystems (i.e., the process is compatible with ecosystems/moderates pollution). This important result is necessary even if the broader goal is de-consumption (i.e., achieving a reduction in co nsumption level). However, sustainable marketing mixes must concurrently deliver genuine benefits to customers and financial rewards to firms; achieving compatibility with ecosystems is not an end in itself.

DECISION FRAMEWORK: PRODUCE SYSTEM LIFE-CYCLE (PSLC)

In order to capture a true picture of how marketing mixes impact ecosystems, and therefore be in position to implement decisions that support sustainability, a broad cradle-to-grave interpretation of where product systems begin and end is required. The product system life-cycle (PSLC) defines the appropriate decision framework. It represents the merger of two complimentary concepts: (1) the resource life-cycle (Tchobanoglous et al. …