As consumers become increasingly expectant of companies’ wider commitment to pressing contemporary environmental and social concerns, embedding a sense of sustainability and social responsibility becomes equally as important as price. Consumers’ needs and expectations are ‘greening’ and so in order to remain competitive, it is imperative that brands adapt and evolve to both this new consumer trend and to changes in wider societal and political climate.
Profitability and sales no longer stand exclusively on the pillars of strategic marketing, brand positioning or even product innovatism but on a strong and transparent commitment to the environmental and the social cause. Demonstrating a commitment to environmental sustainability and social responsibility is a two way process; a dialect. It is also about reaching out and engaging the consumer with environmental, social and the political concerns of our time, raising awareness, questioning action and behaviour, globally and locally.
Eco-Consumerism and Choice
As globalization and the spread of knowledge, cultures, media, communications and transport intensifies, people and place have been and continue to become increasingly connected. People, consumers and companies are looking beyond national borders and boundaries, forming a new sense of global citizenship, altruism and eco-consciousness. Until recently this eco-consciousness heeded little influence upon the domains of corporation and consumerism with the conscientious consumer remaining a minority figure and ‘green’ consumer trends, non-existent. However in recent years eco-conscious consumerism has been gaining momentum, bringing with it significant implications for the corporation, company and marketing.
In the world of consumerism, eco-consciousness is a two dimensional issue in which both consumers and brands play an important role. However it is brands that must take a lead on this and give the consumer the chance to make a difference. In the domain of consumerism and corporation, products can act as the bridge between consumers’ good intentions (which is in essence a thought process) and meaningful action (the small step that makes a difference). Without an eco or ethical purchase choice available, the customer is left unable to exercise or action their good will and consumer power. In a world of consumerism that is constantly changing, evolving and expanding, it is crucial that companies look to the long-term goals of sustainability and ethical and eco-consumerism rather than the latest trends, immediate profitability and short term economic gain.
From ice cream to shampoo, today’s consumer is faced with too much choice when it comes to product and brand. Choice has always existed but today’s abundance of choice in the world of consumer goods and modern living both liberates and confuses. The abundance of choice can lead to the consumer choosing none, feeling discontent and dissatisfied. In this world of excess choice, today’s consumer will make their decision based upon trust and value. Consumers look for brands that deliver promises. Trust means a strong confidence in and reliance on the integrity of something such as a person, a product, a brand. It is a dynamic process that evolves and grows, born out of a relationship between brand and consumer. Unlike trust that is innate, value can be embedded in, increased and added to a brand. Increasingly brands have began to align themselves with associations such as the Fairtrade Foundation and Soil Association in attempt to embed and add value to their brand, engage the consumer and give the consumer peace of mind over their purchase choice. Examples of brands that have embedded values of environmental sustainability, social responsibility and ethical consumerism and in which consumers have responded enthusiastically include Green & Blacks, Café Direct, Howies and Edun.
So is Green the New Black?
Ethnographical research illustrates that consumers value brands that take in to account the environmental and social impacts of their business more. As the consequences of consumerism complacency look set to intensify, consumer concern over the environmental and social impacts of our purchase choice and services is a concern set to manifest throughout contemporary society, becoming increasingly important for brands and companies.
Brands that neglect and fail to adapt to this emerging trend of green and ethical consumerism will miss out on commercial opportunities, jeopardizing future profits.
So just like the Coco Chanel little black dress, Green is timeless and here to stay.