That elusive green consumer

8-06-2021 | Study

People say they want environmentally friendly products, but they tend not to buy them. Here's how to remedy this by using smart marketing tools. We publish the study by Katherine White, lecturer and academic director of the Dillon Center for Business Ethics.

by Katherine White

At first glance, it looks like there has never been a better time for launch a sustainable product. Consumers - especially millennials - are increasingly saying they want brands that combine social function with sustainability. In fact, a recently released report revealed that products advertised as environmentally sustainable show twice the growth of their traditional counterparts. But yet, behind the "green" business remains a frustrating paradox: among consumers who declare positive attitudes towards eco-friendly products and services, few follow you with their purchases. In a recent survey, the 65% of respondents said they wanted to buy brands that look to sustainability, but then only the 26% did.

The power of social influence

Narrowing this "gap between intention and action" is important not only to meet corporate sustainability objectives, but also for the well-being of the planet. For several years we have been trying to understand how to promote the sustainable consumption, and the good news is that we've learned a lot about how to align consumer behaviors with their stated preferences, and that our findings can be leveraged by any organization wishing to drive consumers towards sustainable consumption and behavior. In a nutshell, we have identified five actions that companies can take.

Exploit the power of social influence it is one of the most effective ways to stimulate environmentally friendly behaviors even in consumption. Telling online shoppers that other people were buying green products increased the likelihood that they would make at least one sustainable purchase by 65%. Telling buffet restaurant patrons that the norm was not to take too much at one time (and that it was okay to come back to help yourself at other times) did decrease the surpluses by 20.5%. The premise that people decide to install solar panels is simply that their neighbors have already done so. And tell college students that other commuters had given up the car in favor of more sustainable means of transport (like the bicycle) led them to use the latter five times more often than those who were simply given information on possible alternatives.

Promote good habits

Human beings are creatures of habit. Many behaviors, such as how we move from home to work and vice versa, what we buy, what we eat and how we dispose of products and packaging are part of our routines. Often the key to promoting sustainable consumption behaviors is first breaking bad habits and then promote good ones. For example, using disposable coffee cups at home (a habit that is repeated 500 billion times a year in the world) imitates the disposable cup and the presence of a binder with the cup symbol that are commonly found. in coffee shops. Losing this habit is simple, but first it is necessary to give up the previous one, and companies can propose new offers to eliminate the bad ones and replace them with more virtuous ones.

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