The Green Mirage

Here's an inconvenient truth: Most consumers aren't terribly concerned about the environment

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Even if the percentage of Americans who are passionate about the environment is fairly low, that's a pretty desirable group of consumers, right? And that's got to be likely to grow.

As for the 13 percent, they really, really care. They think that paying more is the right price. And 13 percent is a good strong part of the consumer market. I believe the 13 percent will continue to grow and will draw people. How big will that core group get? Can it double over next decade?

I don't think so, not without some fundamental change that makes the environment felt at a personal level. It competes with other issues—terrorism, or Social Security funding. The environment has just not crossed that threshold yet. The report also points out that consumers in other countries care more about environmental issues than here in the United States. The Pew findings, for instance.

Right, the Pew Research Center found that green concerns in the U.S. are lower than in any other industrialized nation. That means that more than consumers in the U.S., it will probably be other consumers who drive innovation. So what should companies and their marketing people do? Try to generate more enthusiasm for green products? Or just cater to consumer tastes as they are?

Consumer marketers would rather follow consumer attitudes than lead them. They're very loath to try and teach people something new. But with the environment, that's what they're going have to do. How?

Environmental advocacy groups, or company info—consumers don't consider these to be objective sources. This is an opportunity in the marketplace. Consumers need to turn to more objective sources. Our next study will look into that. There's a need for something like a smart Google.

  • Rick Newman

    Rick Newman is the author of Rebounders: How Winners Pivot From Setback to Success and the co-author of two other books. Follow him on Twitter or e-mail him at

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