Companies can benefit from making a strong link between customer benefits and 'green' offerings (such as environmental friendliness and eco-conscious policies), according to a year-long, cross-industry study into 'green' attitudes and behaviours of US consumers by design consultancy Continuum and e-customer community provider Communispace.
The report, entitled 'Colorblind', aimed to go beyond what consumers say about their dealings with businesses and their eco-friendly aspirations, and find out what they actually do in their daily lives.
Key findings from the study include:
- Consumers care about their own personal world more than the world at large. They care most about the people in their lives, about themselves, about their families, and about their friends. Foremost, they make choices that help protect and sustain these groups, and companies can benefit from making the link between green offerings and personal benefits.
- Environmental choices feel good and, although most consumers want to make the "right choice", most are still confused about what that means in practical terms.
- Green products and messaging are more effective when they're practical than when they're aspirational. Not surprisingly, most consumers are still reluctant to sacrifice personal convenience, low cost, or comfort in the interests of the environment - especially when the environmental benefit of doing so is unclear.
- To most consumers, the environment is seen as being "a place that people visit" rather than a place where they live. Consumers repeatedly described it as a forest or a beach, something far way and occasional, and not something that they interact with daily. Tangible actions (i.e. ones where consumers can see and control the results, such as recycling, or energy or water conservation) are embraced most readily.
- Consumers genuinely abhor waste, and value conservation efforts not so much because it's 'green' than because it's frugal. They buy green products and engage in sustainable practices, but the motives driving these actions appear to be a general abhorrence of waste and prizing of frugality, which means that companies trying to promote green products may be better off addressing these concerns instead.
- Green is not a black-and-white issue and, for consumers at least, there are many shades and levels of greenness. People relate to the environment in different ways, and there is great variety in consumer choices about how to be more environmentally conscious.
"Sustainability touches many parts of people's lives, from their health to their pocketbook, to their image. You can't get to the heart of a topic like this with simple surveys," warned Continuum strategist, Kelly Sherman.
"As with many complex social issues, the idea of 'going green' has become polarised in corporate thinking. We tend to think that consumers are either green or not," explained Manila Austin, director of research for Communispace. "But when our members uploaded pictures and told stories about who and what has influenced them, which of their own environmental practices they feel guilty about and which they feel good about, we got a far more detailed and actionable understanding of the range of consumer orientations and how to address them."
More information about the 7,000-consumer research fielded among Communispace's online communities is available directly from Communispace - click here.