The irony of eco-friendly marketing

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The irony of eco-friendly marketing

The author is a political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

The hottest object of consumption in Korean cities in the 2020s seems to be nature. One television program features celebrities living in the city for five days a week and then spending two days in nature. A fishing variety show is also popular on television. Construction of urban parks has emerged as major promises of the local election candidates, who had focused on building railways and roads in the past.

Companies are responding to the demand with aggressive eco-friendly marketing. Electric vehicles and eco-friendly energy are classics. Animal feed companies offer environmentally friendly feeds that can reduce methane emission from livestock, and cosmetics companies advocate vegan products using environmentally friendly ingredients. Even if a company does not emphasize ESG management, nature friendly and environmentally friendly products have become an important consumer trend. The Consumer Trend Center at Seoul National University presented “rustic life,” or enjoying the charm of nature and the countryside, as one of the top 10 consumer trend keywords in its “Trend Korea 2022.”

Eco-friendliness is also overflowing in the public sector, too. It is common to promote the expansion of eco-friendly public transportation as an accomplishment, including a number of bike paths along rivers, lakes and streams, which are often labeled as “eco-friendly.” Eco-friendly school meals are notable achievements in the public sector. Most local governments recommend that school meals use eco-friendly agricultural and livestock products without pesticide residues, radioactive exposure, antibiotics, synthetic additives, or genetic modification.

Dead frogs have been found in high school lunches in Seoul. A dead frog was first found in the radish kimchi in a school meal served at a high school in Gangseo District on May 30, and on June 15, another dead frog was found in the radish kimchi noodles at a high school in Jung District. Adding to the absurdity, some school meal suppliers argued that eco-friendly ingredients may contain frogs and slugs. It sounds as if frogs could get mixed up in the eco-friendly produce. Fortunately, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education discarded the food.

You cannot offer apples half eaten by bugs and ask consumers to understand because it’s eco-friendly. Consumers are likely to turn away if animal feed that reduces methane emissions and vegan cosmetics cause side effects or are not effective. I hope the basics are not forgotten while putting eco-friendliness first.
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