Claudia Arias is a researcher and professor in the field of marketing, recently especially in the field of green marketing. Her interests are focused on pro-environmental behaviors and recycling. For three months she is visiting Hochschule Darmstadt to get a new perspective for her research on recycling.
Recycling is a big topic. Is there any specific field of recycling you´re doing researches on?
I am doing research on recycling behavior. From both perspectives: the consumer as well as the organizational perspective. I analyze different behaviors from consumers and their adoption to find a way to encourage recycling. For the organizational perspective I am going to study different cases of initiatives of companies that promote recycling in Columbia to find out why and how the company gives the consumers the chance to recycle involving them in their supply chain. This is important because until now there are no policies, strategies and researches from both of these perspectives.
I started my research because I learned from green marketing that there is the opportunity to bring together the consumers and organizations as the main actors of marketing. This is important because at the same time they are the main actors of environmental issues and they should be the main actors for new solutions for a sustainable development. To bring both of the perspectives together is also what I want to do with my research.
For a person who has never heard about green marketing before, what is it about?
Green marketing is about how to do a better marketing that takes into account the environmental issues. From my experience green marketing gives the opportunity to bring together organizations and consumers in the achievement of a more sustainable development. It is about opportunities to create value based on environmental issues and environmental concerns from people. You also have to translate that in products, services and finally deliver those new value propositions and communicate what you are doing in environmental sustainability. This is why green marketing is a whole process of exploring, creating, delivering and communicating green value. Sometimes companies start at the last station: they talk more about sustainability than they actually do. That is when they fall into a practice that is called green washing.
What do you hope to achieve during your time abroad?
For me Germany always has been a reference for recycling in Columbia. In Columbia we have several challenges with sustainable behavior and recycling. I want to know how you do recycling and how your system works in Germany. But I also want to have a different perspective for my research. Recycling behavior is about strategies and policies but also about consumer behavior. I also love to have the opportunity to see many of your projects in Darmstadt. For example, the reusable cup for drinks to reduce the waste of coffee-to-go cups. Ideas like that have been really inspiring for me and I hope to apply those ideas in Columbia.
Why is recycling that important?
Recycling is related to several environmental issues. In Columbia for example we face environmental issues like water pollution because we have low rates of recycling. If you find a way to increase rate of recycling, you can also achieve other solutions for other environmental issues.
Comparing the recycling situation in Columbia and Germany. What is the more advanced country and what are the differences?
The recycling rate in Columbia is 17 %. In contrast Germany has higher recycling rates. In Columbia we do not have the structure and logistical conditions to encourage the citizens to recycle. In Germany there are the structure and logistical conditions, so you can motivate people to recycle and to behave in a more sustainable way.
Another problem is that the perspective of government and companies is disconnected from the consumers´ perspective. Organizations can create initiatives and campaigns to encourage recycling, but they do not take into account the consumers and the factors that influence their behavior or choices.
Is there one thing that you learned in Germany about Sustainable Development that you want to apply in Columbia?
I love the German mindset about to care for their environment and their city. I can see how different projects are related to the needs of the city and a more sustainable Darmstadt. In Columbia we have a more individualistic culture. People in Columbia realize the environmental issues, but they do not realize them as their problem. They think only Government is in charge of problems like those. That is why I think the most important thing is to change the mindset of people in Columbia about sustainability.
What is your personal motivation for your researches?
I have been in marketing for years, but I have also always been focused on environment and sustainability. Most people think that does not fit together. I am trying to change this mindset. I believe I found an opportunity to link both of these topics. With marketing you have the chance to do many positive things in sustainability. I am firmly convinced that sustainability and marketing can be together. This is my personal interest as well as my motivation.
What can every person do to make recycling easier and less complicated?
The most important thing is to believe that your behavior can change something. Most people think what they do cannot make a change. It is important to change this mindset. Even small things you can do in your home like reuse, reduce or save water for example can make a difference. It is also important to involve all people around you and encourage them to act in the same way. These beliefs about the effectiveness of your actions and other people´s actions have been studied in sustainability field showing their importance in the sustainable behaviors adoption.