Companies can renew consumer’s perception of their brands by adopting sustainable practices. Two surveys polling consumer attitudes reveal that consumer identification of America’s greenest brands can evolve alongside businesses practices.
For the last five years WPP agencies Cohn & Wolfe, Landor Associates, and Penn Schoen Berland (PSB), as well as independent strategy consulting firm Esty Environmental Partners have been conducting global surveys known as ImagePower® Green Brands. These surveys ask consumers in eight countries to respond to questions about green products, companies and brands.
According to the 2009 Green Brands Survey, here is a list of America’s 10 greenest brands:
1. Clorox Green Works
2. Burt’s Bees
3. Tom’s of Maine
4. SC Johnson
Although Clorox was on the top of the list, they allegedly spent $30 million promoting the GreenWorks brand. SC Johnson made the list, but they also make environmentally harmful products like Windex, Raid and Saran Wrap.
One of the 2009 surveys more interesting results is the fact that 38 percent of consumers in Brazil indicated they are are willing to spend 30 percent or more for green products.
According to the 2010 Green Brands Survey, here is a list of the top 10 American brands perceived to be the greenest:
1. Burt’s Bees
2. Whole Foods
3. Tom’s of Maine
4. Trader Joe’s
7. SC Johnson
The 2010 survey revealed that 75 percent of Americans want to buy from environmentally responsible companies but the cost of green products continues to be an obstacle.
From a global perspective, the 2010 data indicates that the majority of consumers planned to spend the same or more money on green products in 2011. It is interesting to note that more than 70% of consumers in China, India, and Brazil said they will spend more. To see the top-10 lists from the other seven countries click here.
”It is striking that interest in the environment and sustainability appears to be on the rise in markets all across the world, but the specific issues on which consumers are focused varies from country to country,” says Dan Esty, chairman of Esty Environmental Partners. “The message is that companies must not only develop environmental strategies to address their most important global impacts, but they also need to be able to connect with consumers in a compelling and relevant way on a market-by-market basis.”
“One of the interesting trends we’re seeing this year is the consumer recognition of what we’re calling ‘helper brands,” which provide useful information to consumers,” says Annie Longsworth, global sustainability practice leader at Cohn & Wolfe. “While preference for brands that are ‘in me, on me, around me’ is still prevalent, consumers also value brands that make going green easier for them through online tools, tips, and other forms of engagement through communication.”
Most of those companies that made it into the 2010 top 10 US Green Brands list were not on the list in 2009. Despite the differences between the US 2009 and 2010 lists, they do share an interesting commonality. Dove (2009) and Trader Joe’s (2010) were targeted by Greenpeace for being unsustainable, but both companies have have managed to transform environmental-ire into eco-adulation.
Dove’s parent company, Unilever got into trouble because the companies they used to source palm oil were clearing rainforests and carbon-dense peatlands. After some pressure, Unilever addressed the problem by flexing its supply chain muscles and dropping Sinar Mas Agro Resources and SMART.
Unilever went on to announce that it will double sales by 2020 while halving its environmental impact. As reported by Greenbiz, the company is working towards big sustainable goals. Unilever’s 2020 sustainability plan has set more than 50 social, economic and environmental targets. The company has measured the carbon, water and waste footprints of 1,600 products. Their assessments also take into account the full life cyle impact of their products, from “seed to disposal,” as one executive put it.
Like Dove, Trader Joe’s sustainable evolution accelerated after they were singled out as an environmental pariah. However, after making consorted efforts to source sustainable seafood they ending up being the proud recipients of green recognition.
In the cases of both Dove and Trader Joe’s a PR nightmare was transformed into a marketing bonanza. The experience of these two companies suggest that redemption is possible for businesses that are serious about adopting sustainable practices.
© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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