But a recent poll from Maritz Research indicates that retailers will have to keep that environmental buzz going if they hope to woo Generation Y shoppers. Poll findings indicate that environmental messaging has a major impact on customer loyalty in this key demographic, with 50% of respondents saying it influences their shopping behavior. About 46% of respondents say they'd shop at a retailer more if it were environmentally friendly. And 47% say they're willing to pay more for environmentally friendly services, products or brands.
The Maritz survey, which polled shoppers ages 18 to 30, focused on clothing brands and included those who had shopped at Abercrombie & Fitch, Aeropostale, American Eagle Outfitters, Express or The Gap within the last 30 days. But the results "lend credibility to environmental messaging, which is only likely to gain more momentum with consumers in the future," the company says.
Of course, how that messaging is handled varies. Some companies are doing more to let customers know they're improving store operations. Wal-Mart and Tesco are already pioneering solar-power initiatives in California, for example, and last week, Safeway unveiled a large initiative to power 23 California stores with solar. And while everyone expects retailers like Whole Foods Markets and Starbucks to be on the Environmental Protection Agency's Top 25 list in its Green Power Partnership, less predictable retailers--including Kohl's and Staples--are on that list, too.
Increasingly, however, retailers are looking for ways to brand these environmentally friendly options as their own. The Home Depot, for example, recently upgraded its Eco Options microsite, to make it easier for consumers to zero in on product options that fill a variety of environmental requirements. Walgreens, which last year introduced $10 refills for most printer cartridges, recently offered a one-day special with free refills. "People feel good about keeping printer cartridges out of landfills," the company says.
Wal-Mart's new private label bulbs are the latest example. The company made big news last year when it vowed to sell 100 million CFLs by the end of 2007--a goal it says will save its customers "$3 billion in electrical costs over the life of the bulbs and prevent 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from entering our atmosphere." (About 20% of home electric costs stem from lighting, it says.)