Cultivating The Green Consumer
Consumers say they want to buy ecologically friendly products and reduce their impact on the environment. But when they get to the cash register, their Earth-minded sentiments die on the vine. Although individual quirks underlie some of this hypocrisy, businesses can do a lot more to help would-be green consumers turn their talk into walk.[Excerpted from article]
The impulse to “go green” is expanding into many markets, as more organizations and corporations are launching green campaigns. Consumers are concerned about climate change, rising seas, declining air quality, shrinking animal habitats, lengthening droughts, and new diseases. According to a 2007 McKinsey & Co. global survey of 7,751 consumers, these concerns are reflected in purchases.
This survey by Stanford researchers shows that 87% of consumers are concerned about the environmental and social impacts of their product purchases. However, consumers tend to behave differently when it comes to actual purchase behavior:
- 33% of the Stanford study’s respondents say they are ready to buy green products or have already done so.
- 25% of a 2007 Chain Store Age survey of 822 U.S. consumers have bought a green product other than organic food or energy efficient lighting.
- Organic foods comprised 3% of all 2006 food sales; green laundry detergents and household cleaners comprised less than 2% of their category sales (Nutrition Business Journal).
Consumers appear to want green products, but they expect businesses to lead the way. The Stanford study of identified the 5 barriers to buying green, which must be removed to increase sales of green products:
- Lack of awareness. Consumers must be aware that a product exists before they buy it.
- Negative perceptions. Consumers must believe that a product will get the job done.
- Distrust. Consumers must decide whether a product lives up to its green reputation.
- High prices. Consumers must believe that the product is worth the cost.
- Availability. Consumers must believe that the product is worth the effort in getting it.
The five recommended steps for removing these barriers preventing green-thinking consumers from engaging in green behavior include the following:
- Educate consumers. Businesses must educate consumers about environmental issues and also make them aware of green alternatives.
- Build better products. For consumers to improve their opinion of green products, they must have a quality equal to, or better than, conventional products.
- Be honest. Rebuild public trust (from prior incidents of “greenwashing”) and inform the public of true environmental impact.
- Offer more. Make consumers understand the financial and environmental returns on their investment.
- Bring products to the people. Companies can’t sell product if consumers can’t find them.