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Environmental Stewardship on the NASCAR Circuit....Confusing?

3p is proud to partner with the Presidio Graduate School’s Managerial Marketing course on a blogging series about “sustainable marketing.” This post is part of that series. To follow along, please click here. By Joseph Wilzbacher In Ken Belson’s New York Times article on NASCAR, the author highlights the green initiatives being taken within the industry. NASCAR, going green? It seems like an oxymoron as he suggests. The industry exists due to a grand desire to watch fast vehicles going in circles consuming a gallon of fuel every four to five miles. Like many indulgences, the NASCAR pastime isn’t going anywhere. Yes, it heavily pollutes and drives (no pun intended) demand for consumption. Despite its negative impacts on the environment we shouldn’t dismiss the positive efforts being put forth to mitigate the impact. Large recycling efforts including lubricants, fuel rags, scrap metal, tires, and metal shavings have been implemented along with solar power fields, sheep grazing on the infield, and tree planting offsets. [caption id="attachment_94781" align="alignright" width="259" caption="Shredded for children's playgrounds and asphalt mixtures"][/caption] Critics call it greenwashing, but as the recipients of that message may not be as responsive to green marketing, the actions being taken appear to be driven more closely by benefits other than marketing their sport. In fact there are worries from the diehard fans that switching to ethanol could affect the performance of the vehicles, while environmentalists express concern over the substitution of corn fields supplying food to supplying fuel. The side effects of our ethanol consumption are profound. Marketing it as green has many challenges and critics. Most people accept ethanol as a greener alternative to fuel because it is cleaner, but it also exacerbates problems to other resources.  The U.S. exports of corn will be reduced, driving the development of alternative land within the higher income importers. The lower income importers would have to substitute corn for wheat or other grain. The price of beef will increase as herds are reduced to make room for corn fields. The water required for expanding fields will have a global impact.  Ethanol is currently 5 billion of the 12.5 billion bushel U.S. corn crop, growing from 1.4 billion just 6 years ago. “Green” initiatives and marketing those initiatives get a variety of responses depending on the industry, the target audience, and systematic impact. Environmental activists can continue to protest and fight industries that have a large impact on our environment but they must applaud the incremental strides towards becoming more responsible, such as the case with NASCAR.  They also must continue to raise the interdependent effects of some of these trends to bring full awareness to the impact and best prepare for those consequences whether intended or not. Each green initiative can be viewed from many personal frameworks offering benefits that satisfy each individual’s values. The concentration of NASCAR fans from the Midwest and South may see these initiatives as patriotic duties to wean our country of reliance of foreign oil. Other’s strictly value the environmental impact with reduction in waste generations from the events. Operation managers enjoy the monetary savings or growth they receive from energy efficiencies and positive PR respectively. All perspectives can claim satisfaction in environmental stewardship, whether they enjoy the monetary savings, the impact on climate change, or sovereign independence. Is it marketing or just the common sense driving the evolution of how things are done? Just as sustainability has penetrated movie making, shopping, professional sports, and the airline industry, why not penetrate all contributors to our environmental consumption? Perhaps it’s because it makes business sense too.

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