Earth Day Not Yet on Retail Calendar
While many consumers are scrambling to get their hands on a Prius
and crowding farmers’ markets, the economy appears to be outweighing
eco-consciousness when it comes to other buying decisions around green products.
article that ran last Friday, Earth Day, in The New York Times noted
that sales of many eco-friendly household products launched around 2008 to
great fanfare have fizzled over the last two years. For instance, Clorox’s
Green Works cleaning line launched in 2008 with a vow to "move natural
cleaning into the mainstream" reached $100 million in its first year.
Last year, its sales dropped to $60 million. Arm & Hammer’s eco-friendly
Essentials line has been pulled from the U.S. market three years after its
A large part of the overall decline was attributed to penny-pinching
consumers, even as prices for many mainstream green items have become more
competitive. For instance, a 32-oz bottle of Green Works All-Purpose cleaner
costs $3.29 at Stop & Shop versus $2.89 for the same-size bottle of Fantastik,
according to the article.
At the same time, the article
found major manufacturers deemphasizing green efforts not only by introducing
less eco-friendly items over the last two years, but not supporting existing
ones with marketing. According to Kantar Media, more than $25 million was spent
advertising Green Works in both 2008 and 2009, but just $1.4 million in 2010.
the green mainstream brands apparently aren’t reaching the most-desirable green
customers. Sales of independent, more-expensive brands like Method and Seventh
Generation resumed double-digit growth in 2010 following flat growth in 2009
as "those customers tended to be more affluent and more wedded
to environmental causes," the article states.
Several surveys arriving
around Earth Day pointed to still a halfhearted commitment to green causes
by many Americans:
- The "Green is Universal" online survey for 2011 from NBC Universal
found 91 percent of respondents agreed that if they don’t take care
of the planet, future generations will suffer. But only 27 percent had actively
boycotted a company due to its lack of green policies or products (still
up from nine percent in 2009).
- A study from L’Oréal USA found that shifts in attitudes and
more eco-conscious behaviors are slow to come, particularly among mature
segments of the population.
- A survey from Ogilvy & Mather found while 82 percent of Americans have "Good
Green Intentions," only 16 percent are "Dedicated to Fulfilling
These Intentions." The ad agency claims that while the cost of going
green is one issue, existing green marketing is either irrelevant or even
alienating most Americans. The study found half of Americans think eco-friendly
products are marketed to "Crunchy Granola Hippies" or "Rich
Elitist Snobs" rather than "Everyday Americans."
- As Consumers Cut Spending, ‘Green’ Products Lose Allure – The
New York Times
Consumerism in Doubt – Environmental Leader
- 2011 Sustainable Living Survey Fielded by L’Oréal USA Reveals Changes
in Attitudes, Behavior and Consumption Are Slow to Come – L’Oréal
- Mainstreaming Green Behaviors Demands Massive New Approach – Ogilvy & Mather/PRNewswire
Discussion Question: Is the green movement at retail losing steam?