Eco-Friendly Perception and the Consumer

I just spent part of this morning reading two fascinating articles on how consumers and even business executives perceive the “eco-friendliness” of various companies. The first article “Green Executives are from Mars, Consumers are from Venus” from GreenBiz.com takes a poll of consumers to identify what companies they perceive as being “green” and then takes a similar poll of business executives and compares the result of both polls. The big surprise? The number one “green” company on each list was Wal-Mart. That was a definite stunner to me- I’m not saying that I don’t believe that Wal-Mart has made environmentally friendly strides, but they definitely don’t top my list. The article goes on to suggest that media coverage and self-promotion have a strong correlation to public perception (seems sort of obvious, right?). The really interesting part of the article for me was looking at the full lists of the top 20 companies identified by each group. Check out the full article here.

The second article, “Hey, Green Spender: The Truth About Eco-Friendly Brands” in New Scientist, takes a more scientific approach and looks at companies that consumers perceive as green and analyzes the actual environmental impact of these companies to see if they really are green. Not surprisingly, some companies had very few real environmental impact reductions to back up the consumer perception. Check out the full article here.

Lesson learned? As is typically the case, consumer perceptions are not always in line with reality. The building industry has tried to aid the general public in identifying sustainable buildings (with mixed results) with certification programs like LEED, ENERGY STAR, Green Globes and others. Building products have a variety of certification programs to help design and construction professionals chose the sustainable option too, from GREENGUARD to Cradle to Cradle or Green Seal. My prediction? Watch for more organizations to spring up to certify entire companies and organizations as environmentally friendly.

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