Canadian Vending

Features Consumer Behaviour Trends
From the Editor: July-August-2010

Green Strategy Or Ploy?


August 18, 2010
By Cam Wood


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An interesting point came up during a recent conversation on the environment.

An interesting point came up during a recent conversation on the environment. With British Petroleum awash in scandal, accusations and consumer ire over the situation in the Gulf of Mexico, the intriguing angle was “do we only care about being ‘green’ when there is an actual, plausible threat?”

For a number of years, consumers and product manufacturers have played a coy game of environmentally friendly checkers. Make the move and you will either be jumped or crowned.

Does it matter if a product, business or service is truly “green?” South of the border, many experts say “not so much.” Recent studies have shown that only 26 per cent of our American neighbours actively seek products deemed environmentally friendly. The rest, is, well . . . “talking the talk, while sitting down.”

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That said, the same study also shows that consumers are much more willing to turn against a brand based on negative environmental perception than to float their loyalty to a brand with a concrete environmental strategy.

In our own neck of the woods, however, things do seem a little more progressive when it comes to carbon footprinting, eco-savvy, tree-hugging product lovin’. The 2010 Cascades Index, a recent Canada-wide poll commissioned by Cascades, found that Canadians are increasingly changing their consumer habits to reduce their impact on the environment. In fact, nearly half of respondents said they had done so, which represents a five per cent increase from 2009.

In the study, one of the most surprising findings was the role women played in starting green practices. They are more likely than men to purchase products made from recycled materials and are also more willing to pay a premium for products with a smaller environmental footprint. But although men may be the ones lugging the blue boxes, women seem to initiate recycling in Canadian households.

When it comes to diminishing one’s impact on the environment, the survey also found that 73 per cent of Canadian women typically take more concrete actions compared to 58 per cent of men.

Perhaps, as we launch into our annual Buyers Guide, the perspective might be to look long and hard at women . . . as consumers. If we’re going to continue the trend of greening our businesses and products, then the feminine purchasing influence must be included in these decisions.

However, this tactic is almost as difficult as plugging a leaky oil well. Consumers, especially those already strongly in tune with eco-responsibility, can sense when the greening of a business or product is founded on marketing over methodology. AdWeek recently chimed in on this with: “The most obvious market for green marketing efforts is people who are already attuned to environmental matters and to corporate social responsibility in general.” But this is also an especially tough audience. A Taylor Nelson Sofres study cited these segmented consumers by “shades of green,” and those classified as Eco Centrics (i.e., among the most highly concerned about the environment) were described as “generally scornful of companies’ green efforts, viewing corporate green initiatives as nothing more than marketing tactics.”

Take from the poll results what you will, but two things are clear: when it comes to eco-friendliness, female Canadian consumers lead, while men carry the blue box. It might be worthwhile to consider this when planning your next product mix or equipment purchase.
   


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