Avon Greens Up Its Pink, Unveils Tree Effort

hello green tomorrow

Avon Products is adding a wide green stripe to its marketing colors, announcing a major environmental effort.

Long considered an advocacy leader for its pioneering role in linking products and personnel to the fight against breast cancer, the company plans to give $1 million to the Nature Conservancy to kick off its "Hello Green Tomorrow" initiative. The goal is to "empower a women's environmental movement," which will include replanting one million trees in the Atlantic rain forest in South America, as well as a global fund-raising push to further restore that ecosystem, at just $1 per tree.

The New York-based direct-selling company says it will tap its 6.2 million Avon reps around the world, using this "green army" to raise funds and drive educational efforts.

Avon has coupled the announcement with its Avon Paper Promise, a goal to purchase 100% of its paper from certified and or post-consumer recycled content sources within 10 years.



While it is late to join the green party, "Avon has long gone beyond cause-related marketing, which is a short-term proposition, to build social alliances," Peggy Cunningham, professor of marketing and dean of faculty of management at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, tells Marketing Daily. "It takes on projects for long-term, strategic reasons, and this makes lots of sense. It is such a big paper user, through catalogs and packaging, that it is having an impact on rain forests and old-growth forests. So this is a meaningful fit."

In many ways, Avon wrote the book on such fund-raising. Through 2009, it has raised and donated more than $730 million for battling first breast cancer, and in recent years, domestic violence. (Both causes were chosen because they were so important to Avon reps.)

"For us, this is just a logical progression in terms of trying to make the world a better place," an Avon spokesperson tells Marketing Daily, adding that "Hello Green Tomorrow" marks the company's first external environmental engagement. In addition to the Nature Conservancy, it also includes a partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign.

But the green terrain is not without risks. As more companies jump on the bandwagon, accusations of corporate greenwashing are up. And environmental groups are increasingly turning up the heat on companies they think need to do more.

Greenpeace, for example, says its highly successful two-week April 2008 campaign against Unilever's Dove took off faster than any other effort. It included a video parody of the Dove brand's Onslaught video, which highlighted rain forests being destroyed for palm oil, and caused Unilever to rethink its palm-oil policies.

Dalhousie's Cunningham says that while it was astute of Avon, a global company, to jump in on an effort in a BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) market and to gear the efforts toward women's environmental groups, she says the company does need to worry about pressure from environmental activists.

"Like all companies getting involved in environmental efforts at this stage of the game, Avon needs to be careful of how people will attribute its motivation. How will consumers see it? Activists? Does Avon really understand good forestry, has it partnered with the right people, is this new effort it deeply embedded in operations?" Otherwise, she says, a company risks looking like it has jumped on the green bandwagon for a little cheap PR, "and then they do leave themselves wide open to attacks from activists."

No traditional advertising is planned for the effort, says the Avon spokesperson. "We're devoting space in our brochure, on our website and on our Facebook page." Avon reps will also use those materials in their own social media efforts. She adds: "Avon is also using Twitter, asking consumers to tweet about their own green efforts, and reaching out to external bloggers."

1 comment about "Avon Greens Up Its Pink, Unveils Tree Effort ".
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  1. Deb Bixler, March 17, 2010 at 5:10 p.m.

    This is awesome! As a direct sales professional as well as PROP certified (Professional Recycler of PA) I have often asked direct sales companies to be more environmentally aware. The impact that a company like Avon, Pampered Chef, Mary Kay or any company in direct selling could make is massive. I applaud Avon who is always a trend setter in the industry.

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