Monday-Morning Environmentalists: Marketers Need To Be Green And Proud

While Earth Day probably sounds so last week to many marketers, it would be a big mistake to let talking about environmental efforts slide until next spring: Consumers want them to wear green on their corporate sleeves. New research from Cone, the Boston-based cause-related marketing agency, finds that not only are consumers demanding more from companies in terms of corporate responsibility, they wish companies would talk about it more.

In its survey, 45% of respondents say that advertising is their favorite way to learn about a company's corporate responsibility and environmental policy, beating out methods that include Web sites and packaging. That's an increase from 41% in 2004.

In addition, they are overwhelmingly looking to companies to act: 93% of Americans believe companies have a responsibility to help preserve the environment. "Companies ultimately need to engage consumers and effectively communicate the impact their business practices and products have on the environment," the agency says. "Consumers are listening."



The survey also found that while 32% of Americans say they are more interested in environmental issues than they were a year ago, it's still difficult for them to pay the additional costs these products often demand. For example, while 85% of those surveyed said they'd consider switching products or services if they learned about a company's negative corporate responsibility practices, only 47% say they have actually purchased environmentally friendly goods or services in the last year. (About 93% say they are conserving energy, and 89% are recycling.)

And it takes more than a sense of doing the right thing to push them into that purchase. Money is a big motivator, with 72% saying they would be willing to pay more for an environmentally sound purchase if it saves them money in the long run, which explains why products like the Toyota Prius and long-lasting light bulbs are so hot. And 58% say they'd be willing to pay more for products if they also provide a health advantage.

Cone thinks that as consumers expand their framework, being green won't be enough. "With retailers like Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Marks & Spencer offering more earth-friendly choices across many product lines, consumers can more easily make those sorts of decisions," says Mindy Gomes Casseres, account director at Cone.

Consumers are also becoming increasing adept at focusing on how key issues change from industry to industry, she says, in large part due to advertising initiatives like BP's focus on emissions or Starbucks explanations about fair trade.

"Right now, we suspect a lot of consumer awareness centers on conversations about climate change," she says, "but that doesn't mean consumers don't have things like human rights in mind when they go shopping for footwear or apparel."

1 comment about "Monday-Morning Environmentalists: Marketers Need To Be Green And Proud ".
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  1. Carolyn Parrs, April 23, 2010 at 10:45 a.m.

    Sarah, I know yesterday was Earth Day and all, but this post feels like the same old thing. If green is going to have any real impact, companies have to bring it down from the planet to the personal. You've got to make it about me. In other words, bring your message down to earth. Make it personal. I don’t eat organic pizza to save the planet. I eat it because it tastes better. I don’t wear eco anything because of a melting iceberg. I wear it because it feels better and I look great in it. But don’t believe me. This week in Joel Makower’s blog post ”Me First, Planet Later” he reported: “The news this year is not encouraging. The Great Recession has taken its toll, as has the “controversy” created by climate deniers — those advocating that climate change either isn’t real, or that it isn’t caused by human activity, or if it is, the “fix” is too costly, especially during tough times. Interest in and commitment to environmental problems and solutions has dropped among Americans. With the exception of committed environmentalists — a relative sliver of the populace — the mood has switched from “What can I do to be helpful?” to “What’s in it for me?”

    Frankly, we always believed it was the latter that really moved the needle toward green from as far back as saving the ozone layer. Making ozone personal is what did the job. So sustainability directors and marketers of green, how are you making your green message personal so we really give a #%&*?

    Carolyn Parrs

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