To Green Or Not To Green?

There’s some pretty interesting research on consumer’s current attitudes (what we think) and behaviors (what we do) when it comes to making purchase decisions. Consumers now are saying they’re less interested in making purchases based on an environmentally or socially responsible basis, but they may actually be buying more stuff that fits those criteria.

Now, it’s not unusual for American’s to say they think one way and then actually act another way. For example, if you ask men if they watch the Bachelor TV show they’re likely to say no– even though secretly many of them look forward to watching it with their wives each week. The interesting thing is that we usually err on the side of political correctness, but now it’s all upside down when it comes to environmentally or socially responsible purchases.

Organic foods are booming, people are bringing their own bags into the store, hybrid and electric cars have waiting lists, compact fluorescent lights are still on the march and IKEA stopped ordering incandescent bulbs last fall. Yet, American’s say they’re less concerned about making “green” decisions.

It seems like the confluence of economic hardship and the understanding of our negative impacts on the environment or society are driving some dynamic changes in consumer choices. According to JWT Penn and Associates, there are three key decision factors in consumer’s purchasing decision: quality, price and “greenness.” Before the recession hit quality was king. Now, during the recession, price has taken over the lead. Consumers are predicting that after the recession is over quality, price and “greenness” will achieve a level of parity (given margins of survey error).

Well, making purchasing decisions based on price and quality makes sense to me, but we’re still buying more responsibly than we did before. So, what’s going on here? I’ve got a couple of ideas:

We face the same choices here at Kendall-Jackson. As our sustainability program grows, so do our expectations of our suppliers. We want office supplies or packaging materials with higher recycled content – and we want it at the same price as the old stuff. A couple of years ago we couldn’t make that choice, now there is more availability at better prices. Isn’t that the same thing we’re all seeing at the grocery store? Have you bought an appliance lately? It’s hard to not buy an Energy Star model these days.

Maybe there are fewer people making concerned buying decisions, but those that are concerned are buying more and more. On the other hand, maybe more people have accepted the idea of making choices that are just smart (no BPA content etc.) and don’t think any more of it as “green” decisions.  I recently did the math on my seven year old car. It got 26 mpg – not bad – but repairs, maintenance and gas costs made buying a hybrid a better financial decision. Win–win right?

We’re making the hard choices here at Kendall-Jackson that actually often cost us more. It’s a business decision to stand up for what we think is right for the environment and society. Since you’re reading this blog you’re probably struggling with the same hard choices at home, I know my family does. Please share with us the choices that are getting easier to make and the ones that are still out of reach. I’m sure we can learn from each other’s experiences.