One of the big changes in our times is that ecological products go mass market. Two big buzzwords in this matter are “Conscious shopping” and “sustainability”. What they have in common with most other catch phrases is that almost no one knows what they should mean. Lets change this.
Conscious shoppers are concerned with products that are ethical, organic or Fair-trade. To look after their CO2 balance they buy products from local stores. Sustainability means to ensure not to damage the world with our actions, but to keep it intact for generations still to come.
In the past, you had to be an Eco warrior to do so. Clichéd Hippies, wearing batik shirts and Birkenstock sandals, had to put a lot of effort and abstain from a lot of comforts to be a conscious shopper.
Companies like The Body Shop (no animal experiments for cosmetic products) or Greenpeace electricity (offering only electricity from renewable power sources), didn’t sell ecological products to catch up on some trend, but because they believed in doing the right thing.
Today, we live in an age of Eco-convenience. You can shop ecological- or fair-trade products very easy. Eco- products can be found in almost any discounter. Even whole Eco-Supermarkets open up (e.g. Alnatura). On every single egg sold in Germany you can find a stamp, telling about its origin and whether it is ecological or not.
That comes in pretty handy, because the biggest group among today’s consumer remains those who describe themselves as middle path realists: consumers who still look for value when they try to buy ethical products.
Now lets walk to the dark side.
The success of eco- products brought freeloader with it. In order to increase sales or enhance their own image, they “Greenwash” or “Greentail” themselves. The range of extenuations varies from adding ecological products to the portfolio (e.g. fair-trade coffee at starbucks which really no one drinks) up to shamming consumer and just making up product promises (e.g. E.ON running TV-Ads with a tidal power station, which hasn’t even been build yet and is nowhere near implementation.)
Not without consequences: 32% of the consumers no longer trust brands to tell them the truth, even brands which claim to be ethically, socially and environmentally aware. So the trust levels hit an all time low. Which is self-explanatory if you keep in mind that you can look up companies easily on the Internet and exchange yourself with other consumers. Companies became somewhat vitreous.
Brands and companies become authentic, when they life up to their set values and promises. “Do good and don’t talk about it” (e.g. Ben&Jerrys Ice Cream using only natural ingredients)
In the future, most likely, Ecological aspects of a product won’t be an USP any more. It will be just an additional benefit. You still will have to spend a little more money on ecological products. Which is OK for many people, because they realize that this is an investment into quality and their future. Also they realize that buying (too) cheap can be more expensive in the end.
Make your choice wisely.