Green Is Not The New Black – Yet.

Research globally suggests that the vast majority of consumers believe that we should do the right thing to create environmental sustainability. Yet there is a huge chasm between sentiment and actual behaviour. For example at B&Q hardware in the United Kingdom, sales of environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional products represent less than 7% of the sales mix.

B&Q research suggests that 70% of customers are positively engaged in the idea of “going green”. These people are at least looking at and open to alternatives. 7% of customers don’t care one way or the other but would buy green products if they were the only choice on the shelf. The remaining 23% of customers have reached “green” propaganda overload and are in varying stages of tune-out or push back.

So, while “green” has certainly captured the imagination, it has not as yet become the new black.

Much of this has to do with a failure to date by retailers to move from rhetoric to easy and practical solutions that are painless and simple for consumers to adopt at a behavioural level. We are at a cross-roads that demands we move rapidly to merchandise strategies, pricing strategies, supply chain and operational models which get down to the business end of making it happen. Consumers after all are looking towards retailers to do the hard work for them.

As governments regulate and retailers range in favour of environmentally sustainable alternatives, consumption behaviour will change.

After all, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

There is however, a real lack of comprehension at a retail level about what is actually covered by the term “sustainability”. According to the United Nations, the definition of sustainability is “Meeting humanities needs today, without endangering future generations”. Its scope includes environmental, social and governance areas across economic, physical and political boundaries.

This means sustainability is as much about fair trade (minimum wages & employment conditions) as it is about energy usage and “carbon footprint”.

As the media continues to do what it does best, comprehension of sustainability will only increase and the stakeholder pressure on retailers to act will only intensify. Consumers are looking to retailers to help them turn their green sentiment into green purchasing behaviour. To make it easy and painless for them to do what they increasingly feel in the hearts and minds is the right thing.

Only when this happens will green truly become the new black.