Consumers Want to be Green, But…

Several studies I have read in the last two years point to a greater emphasis in environmental concern among consumers. More people are expressing that they are concerned about how their consumption affects the environment and that they have expectations that companies will engage in sustainable practices to minimize their environmental impact. The latest study, conducted by NBCUniversal as part of its Green is Universal initiative, indicates a majority of American adults have strong inclinations toward being green consumers.

Among the study’s findings:
• 68% of persons surveyed said they would be willing to pay more for green products from trusted brands (up 8 percentage points from 2009)
• 90% agreed that companies have a responsibility to protect the environment
• 77% have a more favorable impression of companies that promote environmental causes
• 62% said they are making an effort to buy goods from environmentally responsible companies

These statistics and findings from other studies point to a new age of consumption, one that is influenced heavily by the values people hold about being stewards of the environment. However, the findings shared here must be tempered with the understanding that none of these measures reflect actual buying behavior. Yes, many consumers want to go green, but there are two limitations holding them back:

1. Marketers need to get serious about being green producers – Many claims made about companies and brands being green today are motivated more by an attempt to project an image of social responsibility than sustainability being integral to the business model. It is challenging for most companies to develop policies, practices, and processes that promote environmental stewardship. The evolution may take time, but if consumers put their money where their opinions are, being positioned as a green brand could pay off.

2. Consumers need to have green choices at fair value – One of the obstacles to greater consumption of green products is price. Prices for many items touted as green are higher than alternatives. As we wrestle with higher prices for gas, food, and other necessities, it will continue to be a dilemma of whether to do the right thing for the environment or for our wallet.

Consumer sentiment toward environmentalism is encouraging, particularly among young adults. Marketers should ratchet up their commitment to promoting environmental stewardship, not merely promoting their greenness. Only then will companies realize the benefits of sustainable business practices.

Marketing Daily - "68%: Green Products Worth Paying More For"