Will the Real Green Consumer Please Stand Up?

Read the studies. Consumers are willing to pay more to go green, but most don’t understand the difference between “energy conversation,” “energy efficiency” and the plethora of other verbiage the sustainable industries use to describe their products. Consumers are disconnected between aspiration and resource. Green companies need to find or establish better methods to communicate their products’ value to customers who are “green” to the industry. Their success depends on it.

Will the real green consumer please stand up? We can’t see you.

According to Accenture, “Nearly nine out of 10 consumers worldwide said they would switch to energy providers that offer products and services that help reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions and two-thirds of people are willing to pay a higher price – a premium of 11 percent, on average – for products and services that produce lower greenhouse gas emissions.”

The market is there and wallets are open. Green companies are blooming to meet the market demand for products but failing to educate consumers along the way – and therein lies the disconnect and reason why sustainable industry markets aren’t growing more rapidly.

According to EcoAlign, 70 percent of consumers do not understand the term “smart energy,” and one-third does not know what “clean energy” means. If that’s the case, why put an “energy efficient” sticker on your product if the majority of customers don’t understand its value? Are green companies to settle for the same standard as food companies who put the “no trans fats” stickers above the label – scaring consumers into buying products, but not really explaining why, or how their products are effective, or why trans fats are even bad?

Without educating consumers and providing an easily accessible, mainstream and popular knowledge base in sustainable industries, green consumers become difficult to identify. Without a centralized forum, their voices are spread far and wide, and the green consumer’s voice gets lost in the static white noise of the broader market.

Editor's note: This is the original draft of an article written by request for my colleague, Mr. Cleantech. A revised version will be published on his site following the holidays.