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SpirE-Journal 2013 Q4

Side Click: Are eco-friendly products worth the money?

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Side Click: Are eco-friendly products worth the money?

With consumers becoming increasingly aware of Green issues, eco-friendly products are flooding the market. But are all of these products as Green as they are touted to be? And will consumer skepticism throw up road-blocks to the consumer Green revolution in future?

Many businesses are using eco-friendly products as a way to reinvigorate their brands and reach out to new customer segments. This is not a new phenomenon. But it is now well and truly in the mainstream of consumer marketing.

To highlight two recent and novel examples:

Throw & Grow confetti

Netherland-based gift store Niko Niko is offering its consumers “Throw & Grow confetti” for parties. As the name suggests, the bio-degradable confetti contains wildflower seeds which can be left on fertile soil to grow. Not only is this product eco-friendly, it saves time in cleaning up after the party!

“Zero-carbon” building

Hong Kong’s renowned “Zero Carbon Building” (ZCB) is a three-storey marvel. Designed for efficiency, it obtains its energy through solar power as well as biodiesel from waste cooking. In addition, the materials used in construction were mainly recycled glass and wood, lowering the carbon footprint during the construction phase.

But with this flood of eco-friendly products there emerges creeping consumer scepticism and possibly the beginnings of a backlash.

According to research, the propensity to purchase an eco-friendly product remains low. Though 40% of the consumers surveyed are willing to make such a purchase, only 4% would actually do so when given a choice.

This can be attributed to the high prices of these products. But there is another factor at work. It was found out that the majority of such eco-friendly products use up significant amounts of fossil fuel and generate pollutants during the manufacturing and logistics process.

Countering the scepticism

Nevertheless, some consumers remain willing to pay a premium for such green products and services. Once consumer trust towards a green business brand has been established, consumer loyalty can be ensured through repeat purchases.

In fact, demand for eco-friendly products is on the rise, in value terms. Green business is expected to contribute USD31 billion to the UK economy by 2015. This growth could be attributed to the “Green Deal” – a UK government policy launched in 2013 to help consumers benefit from energy efficient improvements, as well as help companies cover their costs.

Retailers are honing their marketing strategies to reflect sustainability. For instance, Nestlé aims to label its products to reflect using only sustainable palm oil, and cut greenhouse gas emissions significantly by 2020.

But evidence for Green claims is vital.

Another brand that has won the trust of many is DESSO, a Netherland-based carpet manufacturer offering “Cradle to Cradle” certified products which are made from fully recyclable raw materials. DESSO was awarded the “CRI Green Label Plus” for maintaining high standards of indoor air quality, and minimizing chemical emissions.

As consumers become more educated about all things Green, they will learn to sift the wheat from the chaff. Brand owners will have to pay more attention to proving their claims about the sustainability of their products – and work hard to ensure that standards do not slip once consumer trust is won.

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