Communication for Sustainable Development

Herman Trend Alert: Consumers Abandon 'Green' Standards to Save Money

Variations of greenImage via Wikipedia

Not surprisingly, fewer consumers are buying green products. An extensive survey conducted by Grail Research finds that almost two-thirds (65 percent) of consumers changed their green buying habits due to the "Great Recession."
We find this data thought-provoking in light of other recent studies that show consumers patronize companies that demonstrate the “same values” as they do in the area of social responsibility. Interestingly, the availability of green products and green alternatives has been increasing.

Created to gauge consumer sentiments and behaviors related to sustainability and "green" products, the study, titled “The Green Evolution,” also evaluated how consumers interpret the marketing efforts of the companies that offer them.

The report cites that consumers who previously purchased green products have decreased their green purchasing. More precisely, those consumers who bought "some green products" (characterized as "light green") decreased from 76 percent to 60 percent of the population. That’s a more than 20 percent reduction in the usage of green products.

At the same time, there was a rise in the percentage of non-green consumers from 15 percent to 22 percent. Among green consumers, 43 percent cited the economic recession as their reason for not purchasing green products – the top reason given.

Unfortunately for the planet, the number of "dark green" consumers (those who pick earth-friendly products for most of their purchases) increased by a mere 1 percent; they now make up only 10 percent of the consumer market.

"Greenwashing," the process of deceptively using green PR or green marketing to promote the perception that a company's policies or products are environmentally friendly, confuses consumers. The report also found that consumers find it hard to differentiate among the many products claiming green attributes. However, “knowing how to effectively articulate green attributes can improve top-of-mind awareness," the report states.
“It's no longer enough to just say you're green. Consumers now expect comparable value,” said Annica Blake, global head of research services at Grail Research.
For marketers, understanding the distinction between dark green and light green consumers will be increasingly important.

Caught between rising prices and shrinking disposable income, consumers have chosen to economize. As this period of economic hardship continues, we expect to see fewer and fewer green customers. When economies recover, this trend will reverse itself. However, that will be years, at least.
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