More than half of American citizens say they have changed their behavior due to global warming, according to Steve French, managing partner at Natural Marketing Institute.
French, who spoke Feb. 25 to the Phoenix chapter of the American Marketing Association, said that the worldwide green market is worth up to $200 billion annually, and that green businesses will fuel the economic recovery.
He cautioned, however, that consumers view green goods and services as more expensive, even though this isn’t necessarily the case.
Buyers’ attitudes toward green products are assessed by French’s surveys and he has copyrighted a "lens" of lifestyles of health and sustainability formula to help businesses discover the best ways to sell their services and goods.
French specializes in ethnographic surveys in which he goes to homes in 10 countries to see how or if they are using products and services based on their views of how they impact the environment. Only about 15 percent of the population shows no interest in products and services and their effect on climate change and other socially responsible issues, he said.
"Over the last five more than 66 percent of the United States population has become some shade of green," French said to the audience of more than 100 attending the luncheon which included students from ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business.
Being green is relevant to 80 percent of the population with evidence showing in the purchase of products ranging from cars to household cleaners, said French,
Businesses also should be aware that consumers are conscious of eco-labels such as Energy Star, Organic and Fair Trade, but are often overwhelmed by the choices. Employees and the community can help get the message of corporate social responsibility through to consumers, he added.
Twenty-one percent of consumers who make buying decisions based on the environment are more likely to use social media, and about 30 percent are aware of carbon offsets and measuring their carbon footprint, he explained.
About 26 percent of the population are what French calls conventionals, consumers who are intrigued by environmentally conscious products, but only if they save money. "The eco-benefit with this group is only secondary," French said. Their highest interest is in compact fluorescent bulbs.
Another 24 percent say, "I agree I should be doing this, but I don’t have the wherewithal to pull it off." These are price-sensitive trend drivers who may make choices based on what’s cool or environmentally trendy.
It’s becoming stylish to have a purse made out of recycled Cheetos wrappers as more consumers look at where the materials came from to make a product and what happens to the packaging or the product after use, he added.
"Where did the package come from and what do I do with it afterwards?" are questions French said he is encountering more frequently in his research interviews. "Single use items are going out of style," he said.
Bag, Borrow and Steal, a new model for renting handbags is taking off, and Zip Car, a shared automobile program shows the move from a product to a service-based society, French told the audience, which ranged from marketing staff for satellite firms to software developers.
Being green and practical shows in the increased business at used-book stores as consumers move to lead a more simple life and look towards how their decisions affect the future.