Earth Day and consumers ‘demand’ for greener products
Joel Makower at GreenBiz has once again done a great service by plowing into the dozens of studies on green consumers that come out like daffodils around Earth Day. (In case you haven’t noticed the drumbeat, Earth Day is April 22 – don’t miss my presentation and booth at Green Festival at the Javitz Convention Center in NYC!)
Unfortunately the picture is once again anemic – according to the Shelton Group’s EcoPulse study, people appear to be buying recycled, or selecting energy saving devices in some categories, looking for reduced toxins and, consistent with last year’s trends, linking “American made” with increased safety and reduced health impacts. But few consumers appear to frequently make environmentally preferable product choices, based on scrutiny of labels, reduced toxic content, etc.
On the other hand consumers appear to expect companies to be far more active and engaged than they are personally. As Joel summarizes findings in the Cone Green Gap study – “Americans expect companies to address the full environmental impact of a product’s lifecycle, from the impacts associated with manufacturing the product (according to 90 percent of consumers), to the product’s use (88 percent), to its disposal (89 percent).”
This puts companies in a bind – consumers expect them to address “all their environmental impacts” yet don’t appear to take the time or make the effort to reward them for doing so. Is it any wonder companies shy away from making environmental claims?
EPEAT and other environmental ratings and labels can help cut through the clutter by enabling consumers to easily identify companies who are addressing the full lifecycle of their products, and retailers who are helping them choose products that reduce their personal environmental impact.
Familiarizing consumers with credible, multi-attribute programs and labels is an essential step to moving beyond the conundrum of consumers’ high expectations vs. low commitment. And it’s progress that can be made, with the active involvement of brand owners and retailers.
The endpoint is still conscious consumers who will reward companies who do the right thing - but understanding they still aren’t ready to pull detailed sustainability data to market, we can team up to push solid information their way.