Consumers today are understandably concerned about sustainability, as demands for natural resources continue to challenge supplies. By 2030, the world's population will reach 8.3 billion, boosting demand for food and energy by 50% and fresh water by 30%. The challenge is clear from a macro perspective, but it is how consumers and businesses are responding and reacting to this new world order which is most significant.
We have identified four ways this green trend is reflected in consumer behavior.
GREEN WITHOUT THE PREMIUM – A number of recent surveys have shown that, while consumers have changed their behavior to conserve energy in their household, they're becoming less willing to pay more for green products.1 Green credentials are increasingly being viewed as an expected given, and in difficult economic times, environmental issues are moving down a consumer’s consideration criteria when making a purchase.
SUSTAINABILITY OVER-HYPE – Some marketing communications have over-hyped the green credentials of a product, and these overly aggressive claims have the adverse affect of heightening distrust. The awareness is there about environmental issues, and people are motivated, but consumers are evaluating green credentials more than before and generally being more critical.
BEHAVIORAL APATHY – Translating green concerns into green behavior does remain a challenge. While common actions such as recycling are now mainstream, sustainable living as a whole remains low on consumers' priorities.2 People are not as motivated by green as some brands assume.
SPLIT CONSUMER TYPES – A split is forging between the most committed and educated green consumers still being willing and able to spend more on products, while those in the mainstream grow more skeptical. Also, in developed countries undergoing difficult economic times, green is moving down the agenda, but in countries like China, the sustainability message continues to have a strong resonance.
Manufacturers are adapting to these trends and consumer behaviors by looking at their own eco-footprint, launching and championing internal sustainability initiatives, and by implementing a new wave of environmental marketing focused less on the ‘sell’ and more on saving energy or water.
This is helping to build corporate and brand equity, and ensuring the things that consumers value are associated with their brand.
They are also increasingly using new product development to launch detergents that use even less packaging, wash at even lower temperatures and clean effectively on shorter cycles. Indeed, a number of new products have been introduced over the last year that meet these criteria.3 By far the most common ‘green’ purchases in North America are household cleaning products – hence the growth potential of this category.4
Manufacturers are taking environmental assessment to the next level, looking from sourcing and production of materials and detergents all the way to consumer usage – and seeing which parts of the ‘chain’ are accounting for which percentage of greenhouse-gas emissions. These eco-producers are stepping up a gear and embracing the ‘super-eco’, where every aspect of the product or service is unquestionably and utterly sustainable.5
Finally, everyone involved in the sustainability debate is trying to break this down into separate component parts, also known as the ‘ten global sustainability megaforces’ that will impact every business over the next two decades.6 From climate change to water scarcity, from urbanization to ecosystem decline and deforestation,7 each needs to be considered in turn.
It is clear that sustainability is becoming more integral to business from a strategic and operational point of view. Perhaps more interesting is the fast emerging trend of sustainability being seen as a source (even the source itself) of revenue and business growth8 – that is, if businesses are able to break through customer apathy.
We, the Fabric & Household Care team at DuPont Industrial Biosciences, are striving to put the consumer at the heart of how we collaborate and innovate with our customers.
And understanding the key trends, like the need to protect the planet, sits at the heart of this.
We continue to develop enzymes that allow our customers to champion differentiating green claims and support these with sustainability-led proof points. In addition, our focus remains on optimizing quality (irrespective of stain or cleaning condition) whilst minimizing the reliance on harsh chemicals. This means detergents manufacturers can truly offer a range of compelling products to their end users.
Of course, no other benefits matter if the product doesn’t deliver a great clean – that’s why performance drives everything we do. Consumers may have different expectations of performance, but it still sits at the heart of their world – and ours.
1 Green Gauge survey by GfK (survey of 2000 US consumers), September 2012
2 The Energy Saving Trust and Guardian Sustainable Business, Behavior Change study, May 2012
3 Mintel, ‘Extend my brand’ report, September 2012
4 Fabric & Household Care, ‘Household Sustainability Index Study’, USA & Canada, April 2011
5 Trendwatching.com, ‘12 mini-trends to run with now’, September 2012
6 & 7 KPMG, ‘Expect the Unexpected: Building business value in a changing world’, February 2012
8 Accenture, ‘Long-Term Growth, Short-Term Differentiation and Profits from Sustainable Products and Services: A global survey of business executives’, 2012