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Marketers Warned To Stay Clear Of ‘Green Trap’

America’s consumers offer a warning to business leaders and marketers looking to ride the green wave: either back your eco-friendly words with socially responsible actions or risk a backlash. Conscious consumers are demanding that companies be transparent about their practices and accountable for their impact on people and the planet.

Nearly nine in ten Americans say the words “conscious consumer” describe them well and are more likely to buy from companies that manufacture energy efficient products (90 percent), promote health and safety benefits (88 percent), support fair labor and trade practices (87 percent), and commit to environmentally friendly practices (87 percent), if products are of equal quality and price, according to the inaugural BBMG Conscious Consumer Report.

“In a world of green clutter, conscious consumers expect companies to do more than make eco-friendly claims. They demand transparency and accountability across every level of business practice. Avoiding the green trap means authentically backing your words with socially responsible actions,” says Raphael Bemporad, founding partner of BBMG.

Consumers’ most important issues are the ones that affect their health and wellness most directly, such as safe drinking water (90 percent), clean air (86 percent) and finding cures for diseases like cancer, AIDS and Alzheimers (84 percent). By comparison, only 63 percent describe global warming as the most or a very important issue.

Americans readily self-identify as “conscious consumers” (88 percent well, 37 percent very well), “socially responsible” (88 percent well, 39 percent very well) and “environmentally-friendly” (86 percent well, 34 percent very well). By contrast, fewer respondents self-identify as “green” (65 percent well, 18 percent very well), which is viewed as more exclusive.

While price (58 percent very important) and quality (66 percent very important) are paramount, convenience (34 percent very important) has been edged out by more socially relevant attributes: where a product is made (44 percent very important), how energy efficient it is (41 percent very important) and its health benefits (36 percent very important) are all integral to consumers’ purchasing decisions.

Whole Foods Market (22 percent) tops the list of the survey’s most socially responsible companies, followed by Newman’s Own (19 percent), Wal-Mart (18 percent), Burt’s Bees (17 percent) and General Electric, Johnson & Johnson and Ben & Jerry’s (all 16 percent).

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4 thoughts on “Marketers Warned To Stay Clear Of ‘Green Trap’

  1. ‘Sorry, but I think the research is flawed. I think there is a big gap between what people say and what they do. Most people want to believe that they are “conscious consumers.” And many probably are on big ticket items such as cars and major appliances, especially when they incur operating costs. But when they go shopping, they will go to the biggest retailer for price and availability with little concern about country – or company – of origin.

  2. Golly S. McCluer… maybe that’s because they are being sold the wrong message for decades. What if zoom, zoom, zoom was replaced with SAFE, SAFE, SAFE. Then that message was hammered home day after day after day along with why the car is safer for people & planet.

    That’s basically what happen with Prius. I now have 7 friends who own a Prius, all women. Not ONE bought it to zoom down the highway. They bought it because it was good for the environment, saved them gas money (an unfixed cost), gave them versitile room inside, unlocked while they stood near carrying boxes of teaching supplies… it goes on and on. In other words, the product sold itself via word of mouth.

    The next hurdle will be PROVING that the whole product life cycle, not just one attribute, is good for the people and planet. Business need proof. Consumers want truth. Both can be achieved by using a smart sustainable standard.

  3. The wrong message – maybe, but consumers don’t necessarily ASK for the right information either. Lomng-term, the best approach for eco-labeling is most likely going to work it’s way out to be like the USDA food label, and we all know how much people pay attention to those…. The point is, people have to start THINKING, and “Green Bug” on your product is a way of saying “look – we thought for you.” In my book, that is just plain stupid.

    Regarding the Prius… Toyota has published data stating that, from a life cycle perspective, the Prius isn’t any better than a Camry because of the burden asoociated to the power system. The only real benefit is in the fuel cost to the user – which is effectively transferred into the purchase price/loan because of the premium you pay on that car. Payback on that premium from gas savings is estimated at 5-7 years.

  4. Hey S. McCluer, thanks for your response. It’s Raphael Bemporad here from BBMG.

    You’re making an important point and our research does show an action gap between what people say and what they do.

    For example, consumers willingly engage in “easy” behaviors, such as recycling and using energy efficient appliances. But they often fail to adopt more demanding behaviors like carpooling, using public transportation or purchasing carbon offsets.

    On the “conscious consumer” self-identification, 88% say the words describe them well (37% very well). We think it’s great that more than one in three Americans deeply self-identify this way.

    At the end of the day, we’ve noted trends toward self-centered consciousness, whereby consumers seek to address personal concerns first and then social benefits.

    We’re also learning that it’s a journey and even more enlightened consumers regularly balance both practical and social concerns.

    You can check out some of these additional highlights by downloading our free Conscious Consumer white paper at http://www.bbmg.com.


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