Back in the early 2000’s, there was a surge in brands and marketers using “green” as a rallying cry. Often however, the efforts backfired as consumers saw through the advertising as an attempt to play on the heart strings of those concerned about the environment, without the advertiser really caring about the cause. By 2008, The New York Times proclaimed that green marketing had lost some of it’s buzz.
Today, the environment is hitting the headlines again. News and commentary is filled with talk of rising seas, poor air quality and potential animal extinctions more frequently than ever. A couple of defining moments stand out in particular. In Australia, it was the War on WasteTV program, while in the UK and US, David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II series has sparked a cultural shift around global plastic consumption. It has also just been revealed that micro-plastics have been now been discovered in human waste.
Sales of reusable coffee cups and water bottles is at an all time high, and companies like Starbucks are leading the way by banning plastic straws, while brands like Evian and Coca-Cola promise new packaging made from recycled materials.
So brands are once again feeling the urge to “go green” and according to a recent study carried out in the UK and America:
From free-range meat to vegan skincare products, Millennials are regularly considered to be the ones driving the sustainable movement with their lifestyle and behavioral changes, says the report. Often coined the “Green Generation”, many brands are starting to see the appeal and opportunity in these changes.
Over 60% of Millennials (aged 22-35) are more likely than any other generation to say that they would pay extra for eco-friendly or sustainable products, compared to 55% of GenX (aged 36-54) and just 46% of baby boomers (aged 55-64), says the report. Figures for GenZ. are only likely to grow as its members’ disposable income grows, says the report.
As a society, we now have a level of understanding of the damage being done by our “throwaway” culture, says the report. But whose responsibility is it to initiate change? asks the report. The consumers surveyed in the UK and U.S. admittedly felt most responsible for the future of the planet, but 52% believed responsibility lies with manufacturers or production bodies.
Although high proportions choose reusable bags, bottles and recycle, just 34% of those surveyed actively avoid products that are harmful to the environment, like plastic straws or cutlery.
Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) brands, in particular, will face increasing pressure and expectation to initiate change, says the report. When determining the “greenness” of different product categories, consumers are most likely to research cleaning and personal care products. This could be down to the assumption that eco-friendly products are more natural and better for their health, which is also likely to be why food is highly researched, presumes the report.
62% of eco-conscious consumers in the UK and U.S. believe eco-friendly products are better for their health. For household products, in particular, there’s been a recent movement away from products that contain harsh chemicals following reports that many household products have toxic chemicals linked to health problems.
With plastic waste currently at the center stage, it’s logical that CPG brands experience most of the pressure at the moment, says the report. Consumers aren’t as considerate when buying products from other categories, like electronics and travel, mainly because the environmental impact of these products hasn’t had the same amount of publicity.
Less than half of eco-conscious consumers research clothes, shoes and bags before buying them. In reality, the fashion industry, in particular the low-cost, high-volume fast-fashion retailers, is one of the biggest culprits. Water pollution, toxic chemical use and textile waste are just some of the costs to the environment that result from our love of fast fashion. But consumer awareness around the environmental impact of fashion is still relatively low.
What we know for sure, says the report, is that the environment should be at the top of every business’s agenda. Over the coming year, the pressure to be green is set to expand into new product categories, and brands need to start seeing this as an opportunity rather than an obstacle, concludes the report.
Want to market green? Make sure that your core directives reflect environmental initiatives. As an example, Jennettes Pier and aquarium in Nags Head, NC recycles the water from its hand washing sinks, filters out soaps and other contaminants and reuses the water for hand washing again. All electricity used by the pier is generated by wind turbines along its length, and all measures are taken to minimize waste plastic at the facility. This is truly a company that can market themselves as “green”. Starbucks on the other hand is already facing some social backlash, because the “sippable” lids they are offering in place of their previous lid and straw combination actually contains more plastic. The company however, says that the new polypropylene lid is more recyclable.
Bottom line if you are deciding to ‘go green’? Beware the court of public opinion, and weigh the benefit of green marketing against any potential push back by true, or avid environmentalists.