Changing green

4 July 2011 at 9:22 am Leave a comment

David Bersoff writes: In the US, the current thinking is that ‘green’ and sustainability have become flaccid consumer touch points. But while The Futures Company has found decreases in the level of green activity, our analysis shows that these decreases are not evenly distributed. Instead, the biggest declines in green behavior were disproportionately centered among those with the least commitment to living green.

Apparently, without a tide of marketplace excitement, media attention and green chic to sweep them along, the least committed dropped many of the behaviors in which they were previously engaged. In contrast, the more committed became somewhat less zealous in some areas, but stepped up in others for a net gain in green activity participation.

In contrast to the behavioral data, the attitudinal trends show a significant cooling towards environmentalism even among the greenest consumers.  While it is not uncommon for behavior sometimes to outstrip attitudes, this is not a stable state of affairs. Decreased attitudinal support may over time lead to the erosion of green activity participation if left unaddressed, especially regarding those activities that are not perceived to yield secondary benefits. In addition, with a less fertile attitudinal soil to plant them in, it becomes much more difficult to introduce new sustainability-oriented behaviors into the marketplace, especially those that require significant lifestyle change.

Ultimately organizations need to develop long-term strategies for helping people lead greener lives that can be effective even in the face of consumer passivity and lack of interest. Going forward, to the extent possible, green needs to baked into marketplace offerings, and not offered as an option that consumers can take or leave.

But the history of sustainability over a generation has shown quite sharp peaks and troughs in consumer engagement. There are real risks for organizations in deciding to wait until the next crisis before taking decisive action on sustainability issues. If they do, they may find that the severity of both the expectations and the necessary speed of response will be far more expensive and disruptive than taking the lead today on sustainability issues – regardless of the current environmental ennui in the US marketplace.

The image at the top of this post is from Carbon Rally, and is used here with thanks.

Entry filed under: consumers, sustainability.

Customers of the future The futures of fashion

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The Futures Company blog

The Futures Company was created through the merger of Henley Centre HeadlightVision and Yankelovich in 2008. This is the blog of the new company - but the former posts from the former Henley Centre Headlightvision blog still can be found here.

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