PLANT

Green support fading

Companies would be better off offering conventional pricing and picking green issues wisely: consumerology report


TORONTO—The environment means less to Canadian purchasers than it used to, according to a recent survey by Bensimon Byrne, a Toronto-based advertising firm.

Since 2008, the environment has dropped from one of the top five issues facing Canadians. Now, fewer than half rank it as very important.

The number of women who are likely to consider environmental impact when making a purchase has fallen from 41 per cent in 2008 to just 30 per cent today.

“The issue has lost its salience —especially for women— and is taking a backburner to cost and affordability,” says Jack Bensimon, president of Bensimon Byrne.

Bensimon adds the term “green” is even more used up and devoid of meaning than it was three years ago.

Instead, businesses should think carefully when focusing brand positioning or CSR activities around the environment. They could be better off offering conventional pricing and getting hyper-specific about which environmental issues to pursue, he says.

While the environment may be a dwindling concern for purchasers, it shouldn’t be for companies, according to John Bennett, executive director of Ottawa-based environmental group the Sierra Club.

He says the survey results aren’t surprising in light of the economic downturn.

“When people are worried about putting food on the table, the environment is not top of mind. Companies tended to see green and eco-products as a reason to charge more, when in a lot of cases, they don’t cost more [to make],” Bennett says.

“It would be useful for manufacturers and marketing to start touting the economic values of green products,” he adds.

If anything, economic unease creates more opportunity to do so.

“Now is the perfect time to market products that can save operating costs, such as home renovation products that can save dollars going out in wasted energy,” Bennett says.

Manufacturers can also review their own operations for environmental tweaks.

“Companies could be looking at the cost-savings in conserving water or assessing transportation plans, like improving the routes they take and driving more fuel-efficient vehicles,” he says.

“When people aren’t spending as much, when dealerships aren’t selling as much, it’s a good time to make investments or to ask for a deal. There are all kinds of opportunities being missed.”

What influences purchasers most:

  • Less packaging 52
  • Recyclable 52
  • Reusable 49
  • Manufactured with solar energy 36
  • Manufactured with renewable fuels 35
  • Made with fewer fossil fuels 34
  • Supplier’s use of carbon credits 19