Wood Science & Engineering
Environmental marketing of forest products is a relatively unexplored topic that is receiving increasing attention, says Eric Hansen of the Department of Wood Science & Engineering (WS&E). As one aspect of diverse and far-reaching efforts by WS&E faculty is to explore the many facets of forest products marketing, Hansen and his research team are working with the College's Sustainable Forestry Partnership and Colleagues around the globe to study this timely issue. Hansen has taken a leadership role in exploring environmental marketing locally, regionally, and internationally.
One of Hansen's goals is to help forest products companies learn how to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace by capitalizing on their environmental performance. Through extensive education and outreach, he and his team have been helping forest products companies to understand the potential for environmental marketing and assist them in properly implementing strategies to accomplish their goals.
Qualifying the producers
Much of the focus on environmental marketing in recent years has come from a global trend toward forest certification. Hansen's team has been studying what motivates companies to become certified and the resulting impacts.
Forest certification has been largely driven by an attempt to address concerns expressed by environmental groups, and has spawned its own set of controversies over conflicting ideas about standards. Hansen says there is a considerable need to make available an unbiased perspective. To begin to fill this need, Hansen, Rick Fletcher of the College of Forestry, and Mark Rickenbach of the University of Wisconsin recently co-authored a publication called Forest Certification in North America. It includes an outline of opportunities, limitations, and costs associated with certification. In addition, Fletcher and Hansen have conducted certification assessment trainings and other informational presentations to various groups in the Pacific Northwest, as well as nationally and internationally.
Today, companies are beginning to shift their focus away from the heavy emphasis on certification toward a focus on corporate responsibility, says Hansen. He stresses that environmental marketing strategies must be integrated across business functions and reflect a genuine commitment to environmental performance, including sustainable forestry. "Environmental marketing strategies present risks to companies that fail to base their communication on defensible positions," he says. Essentially, companies that internalize environmental performance as a core value throughout their operations are in a stronger position to back their advertising claims.
Testing the market
An outgrowth of the forest certification system involves eco-labeling. An eco-label is a proprietary symbol used to distinguish a product that has been produced according to a given environmental standard, and can be used by manufacturers of wood products to identify wood from certified forests. Forest products companies hope to capture new markets and gain market advantage as they communicate their good environmental performance in this way.
Roy Anderson, PhD candidate in forest products marketing, has focused his research on consumer response to this type of marketing strategy. In a recent study, Anderson placed two identical bins of plywood side by side at The Home Depot, one bin with ecolabeled wood and the other without such labeling. His study revealed that, without a price premium, consumers were more likely to buy the eco-labeled wood. But when a two-percent price premium was added, consumers bought the unlabeled wood most often. According to the researchers, this finding suggests that marketing eco-labeled forest products in mainstream distribution channels may not be an effective strategy for those seeking to obtain a price premium. However, "through appropriate consumer segmentation strategies, obtaining price premiums may be possible."
Studying and teaching what works
Academic publishing in the area of environmental marketing is relatively new. Hansen has published case studies to share insight into the internal culture of companies and the motivation for pursuing environmental marketing strategies. "The experiences and evolution of companies that are involved with environmental marketing is key to understanding the effectiveness of environmental marketing strategies," he says.
In addition, he recently co-authored and published a forest products marketing textbook with Heikki Juslin of the University of Helsinki entitled Strategic Marketing in the Global Forest Industries. Based on a holistic concept of marketing, the text offers a model-based approach to bring students from the realm of theory to real-world, practical planning processes. Specific company examples are used throughout the text.
Additional information and access to publications can be found on WS&E's web site at woodscience.oregonstate.edu/research.htm.
Successful Wood Science & Engineering Graduate Students – Congratulations!
Eric Dancer, MS "Life Cycle Inventory of Laminated Veneer Lumber and Composite I-Joist Manufacturing"
Randy Scott, MS "Lateral Force Resisting Pathways in Log Structures"
Forestry Communications Group, Peavy Hall 256