Eco-chic: Celebrating International Women's Day

This March, the world celebrated International Women’s Day, recognizing both the extraordinary successes and continuing challenges that women face globally. In accordance with that theme, I’d like to reflect on the role of women in the green economy and the influence that women have as green consumers and green leaders. 

From tweens to mommy bloggers and female Boomers, women have long been a favorite and often frustrating demographic for marketers to target. Focusing on the role that women play in the green movement is not only strategic, it’s crucial as women continue to shape the green economy, as consumers, marketers, leaders and business decision makers. 

Women wield a revolutionary amount of economic power, controlling more than 80% of U.S. spending and 65% of global spending. According to the World Bank, the earning power of women globally is expected to reach $18 trillion by 2014 – a $5 trillion rise for current income and more than double the GDP of India and China combined. 

That’s a staggering amount of purchasing power which has been integral to shaping the green movement. 

As Jacquelyn Ottman writes in her book, The New Rules of Green Marketing, women have played an important role in the marketplace since the green consumer revolution began in the 1970s. She writes: “We cannot underestimate that women have historically been in the forefront of green purchasing … They still do most of the shopping and make most of the brand purchasing decisions.” 

It’s been a boon for the green movement that women not only make most of the brand purchasing decisions, but that they tend to make greener decisions than men. According to the brief “Environmental Consumerism Among Women Business Owners,” published by the Center for Women’s Business Research, 77% of female decision-makers in business said that the environmental friendliness of a product has a “moderate” to “major” influence on their purchasing habits. 

According to a 2009 survey by Tiller LLC, one-third of Americans say they feel guilty about not having a greener lifestyle, with 41% of women more likely to suffer from “green guilt” than men (27%, respectively). Rest assured though, that women aren’t silent sufferers. When it comes to recycling, women are “recycling enforcers” in two-thirds of households that make recycling a priority. 

Not only do women yield significant purchasing power but, additionally, women are crucial agents of change in environmental conservation and management. As the United Nations Environment Programme report on “Women and the Environment” wrote, “…sometimes, despite large obstacles, women have proven to be highly effective agents of change, organizing all over the world to demand and work towards a healthy environment.”

The U.S. Department of Labor recently published a manual to provide guidance to women entering the green workforce. Titled Why Green is Your Color: A Woman’s Guide to a Sustainable Career, the guide is designed to help women with job training and career development as they consider jobs in sustainability. 

U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis writes in the guide, “…American workers and employers must lead this green revolution to win the future. To do so, they need to understand what green jobs are, how to educate themselves for a green career and how to find a green job.”

As one of my favorite sayings goes, “green is the new pink” – and is more fashionable than ever. In honor of International Women’s Day, a big salute to those women who are making sustainable purchasing and lifestyle decisions, are leaders and champions of sustainability and of course, to those female green marketers.

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