While green products and choices seem to be all the rage, are they really taking off as much as we think? You may think that millennials are all in on going green and that it’s a great time to launch sustainable products, but despite what people say it doesn’t seem that they are following through. Statistics about sustainable purchasing are not great — people act like they are invested in sustainable products, but don’t often don’t follow through with buying them.
Learning how to narrow the gap between intention and action is not only necessary for businesses to meet their corporate sustainability goals, but also to help the planet, which is considerably more important. This doesn’t just come down to encouraging people to purchase sustainable products, but also to change the way we use our resources such as conserving water or energy or properly utilizing recycling options.
So what are the next steps when it comes to encouraging a better correlation between what people think they want and action? The Harvard Business Review recently identified five actions that companies should consider in order to improve client buy-in which included using social influence and shaping good habits.
Social influence seems to be a huge factor in inspiring people’s green choices. Research has shown that telling online shoppers that other people were buying eco-friendly products led to a 65% increase in their making at least one sustainable purchase. Similarly, telling buffet diners that it was normal to not take tons of food on their first visit to the buffet (and that it was okay to have a second helping if they wanted) decreased food waste by 20.5%. Another study found that a major factor of whether people install solar panels is whether their close neighbors have done so. And, in perhaps the most dramatic finding, telling university students that other commuters were ditching their cars in favor of more-sustainable modes of transportation (such as cycling) led them to use sustainable transport five times as often as did those who were simply given information about alternatives.
It’s vital to find ways to encourage everyone in the community about that these environmentally friendly efforts are taking off without alienating those who may be less inclined to buy in (research has shown this tends to be those on the republican side of the political spectrum). In fact, this audience tended to be more willing to buy green products if the “protect the environment” sticker had been removed from them. Learning how to best reach all sides of the political spectrum will be vital in order to guarantee that real change occurs.
A huge component of making changes is recognizing that human beings are definitely creatures of habit — we go to work the same way every day, get coffee at the same spot, bring the same lunch, and routines can be hard to break. However it’s important to present people with alternatives to help them break bad habits. This can be as small as no longer giving out plastic straws unless explicitly being asked for one or shifting monthly reports and statements to electronic copies only. By working with people to create good habits, we can help encourage green behavior (that hopefully sticks)!
A key take away is that although there is indeed growing momentum behind sustainable business practices, there is also a lot of work left to do around communicating brand sustainability to customers. Utilizing some of the efforts discussed along with marketing fundamentals to connect consumers with the brand’s purpose and product benefits will clearly be central to success in the coming years.