We keep our contacts up to date with news on products, methods, regulations etc. And our suppliers do the same fortunately. Communication is important when running a business, so everyone knows which products are changing, are new - or improved - or will be discontinued.
Or so we thought.
With the last shipment from our regular Dutch supplier the box of one type of products contained the manufacturer's April newsletter, proudly announcing: we're going green! Not just their products but also their house style; green labels, brochures, website and all.
The newsletter is in Dutch, but that's not a problem for us, as you might know we originate from The Netherlands.
The translation of the main news is as follows:
"Starting from 1st July we will only supply products to the professional floor fitter which comply with the VOC regulation (OPS-wetgeving) but keep/establish the same quality and end-result ... we love to help the floor fitter to establish a Volatile-Organic-Compound-free result."
We frequently use and recommend two of the products that are now definitely disappearing from their range and which are all replaced with greener ones. We decided there and then after reading the news we would not re-stock these two products and inform all of our contacts through our newsletter.
News travels fast.....
Partly unbeknown to us various floor-fitters, retailers and even wholesalers in the UK are subscribed to our newsletter - nice to known of course and good practice: best way to keep an eye on your competitor, read their newsletter.
Within an hour after emailing our newsletter to around 1290 contacts we received a phone call from the UK rep of the manufacturer, a bit angry too. Where did we get this news, several of his clients in the trade had been calling him to confirm "our news" and one had even be so kind to forward our newsletter to him.
When I explained it came from the manufacturer's own (Dutch) newsletter in a box with their own products I was told the following amazing - to me - statement:
yeap, but that's just for the Dutch and Belgium market where this VOC regulation has been ratified by the industry, not for the UK market.
I questioned him about this VOC regulation being an EU regulation and wasn't the UK part of the EU? To no avail, here the regulation, according to him, is apparently not ratified by the industry and non-green products in that regards are therefore still available.
He then went on to tell me I should email everyone again to inform them of this, I told him I would insert a note on the blog post about the same subject, which I did. I used his own words and also repeated that once our own limited stock is gone, it's gone and will not be replaced with new "old" products from this manufacturer.
Green, with a difference?
This rep was not happy, and I was left wondering about the green pat on their own back by this Dutch manufacturer.
My impression is they are - with right - proud to comply with the new VOC regulations and help protect the health of the professional floor fitters and the environment by innovation products that are greener but still do "what is says on the tin". Their whole marketing/brand is being turned green for it.
However, and here's the snag, what about the health of professional floor fitters and the environment of countries where the industry - en mass - has not ratified this tightening regulation.
Here in the UK there are plenty of companies/manufacturers voluntarily complying with this regulation - see the same blog post about another replacement product we introduced.
Inconsistency never works for a brand - you are either green, brown, red or whatever statement you want everywhere, or you are not. You can't have it both ways. You'll be "found out" and very quickly nowadays.
This also makes me wonder the following: if the UK is lagging behind in ratifying and complying with these new green regulations there is a very big risk that the UK will be used as a "dumping ground" for other EU manufacturers for their non complying products. Not sure this EU regulation was meant this way.
And not sure how you can use green marketing in one country but decide to forget all about it in another, just because it's not enforced (and therefore more convenient for the bottom line?).
Can you be a different shade of green in different countries?