What price green consumerism?
Remember the innocent days of the 1980s ethical consumer movement? New Age entrepreneurs rode the green wave into the hearts and malls of the world. The promise? Buying pricey ice-cream or hair rinse made with Brazil nuts (or the stocks of the companies that made those products) would make the world a better place. That myth crashed. Consumers, it turned out, were not willing to buy idealism in a bottle if it came at a premium. Two decades later, green marketing remains with us, more intense than ever. Is green yet more than a fad? The Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability annual survey estimates that 13-19% of American adults are dedicated green buyers – a $290bn market. The US-based Cone Communications estimates that 70% of American consumers consider the environmental impact of their purchasing. The UK and Europe show similar numbers. According to marketing experts, however, these figures are wildly overstated, reflecting attitudes, not buying patterns. “Buying green products presents people with a social dilemma: they have to be willing to pay premium prices Ð not for their own direct benefit, but for the greater good,”says professor Shruti Gupta of Penn State University, a world expert in ethical behaviour. “While people love to voice their idealism to survey companies, the cold facts are they almost always put their self-interest first.” Take Elizabeth Romanaux, a consultant from New Jersey interviewed by the American Association of Retired People for a magazine piece about green buying. She considers herself environmentally conscious. She recycles. She composts. But she won’t pay a premium for an eco-friendly hotel room or cleaning products. “It isn’t that I canÕt afford them,”she told AARP Magazine. “It just goes against my grain to pay more.” “Consumers will buy pricier green products,” Gupta says, “but only if they are convinced that […]