As stated in the last CBI report about UK consumers and low-carbon products, three quarters of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions either directly or indirectly attributable to consumer actions. Companies are taking action to drive up standards and setting up pilot initiatives for green products. Energy efficiency and carbon labels and descriptions currently adorn many of our shopping shelves, increasing transparency. But many consumers do remain skeptical about sustainability being a MUST for our future.
The report shows that there is no trade-off between sustainability and profitability but, as we are always stressing in our ECOFFEE communication projects,”(Many business leaders acknowledge that) it is not sufficient to operate in a sustainable way – they also have a responsibility to inform consumers about green choices”. Business cannot boost demand for low-carbon products without the appropriate communication. Let’s take for instance Procter & Gamble’s successful Turn to 30 campaign with Ariel linked the financial benefits to consumers of washing at lower temperatures with the positive environmental impact. This campaign successfully create a link between a product, a consumer personal behaviour and the resulting more sustainable impact on environment.
Once a company has created a demand for its green products, gains arrive very fast.
Philips’ success in energy efficient lighting is an excellent example: the strategic decision to develop the energy efficient lighting side of its business led to successful positioning
at the forefront of innovation.
Retail plays a very important role in raising awareness among consumers and empower them to make greener choices. Tesco for example has worked to highlight the carbon
footprint of its products to help consumers understand the impact of their purchasing decisions. And it worked great.
Now the question is: why there is not such a mass-market demand for green products? It seems that there is a missing link between the consumer and the environmental impact of purchasing a green product versus a not-so green one. When asked about the top three or four factors shaping their choice of purchase, UK consumers top rated one is cost to buy, followed by quality and reliability and brand. The environmental impact is ranked 10 (8%). It seems that there is a disconnection between consumers and the environmental impact of their choices, especially when carbon emissions are concerned. Nearly half (48%) of survey respondents could see the link between low-carbon and helping to tackle climate change, whereas less than a third (30%) identified the link between climate change and energy efficiency.
Labelling plays an important role in raising consumers’ awareness and A-G labelling has been a particular success, being well recognised among those aged between 35-64 (76%) and those earning over £25,000 a year (83%). It is no coincidence that products where the energy efficiency story is most developed for consumers tend to be those where the A-G label is displayed, such as fridges.
To answer to the question “When there will be a mass-market demand for green products?”, it all relies on clear communication and on educating consumers about the impact of their shopping and daily habits on the environment.