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So Confused They Don’t Know They’re Confused
There is absolutely no correlation between how green a company actually is and how green consumers think it is. The same is true for social responsibility. Even Americans actively trying to support companies that share their values are unknowingly confused, according to two recent consumer surveys.

Part of consumers’ confusion comes from what companies say. Marketers are using so many different eco claims that consumers cannot keep them straight, let alone compare them. What’s the difference between “recycled” and “made from post consumer waste”? Is it better to be using wind power or working towards water neutrality?

Part of consumers’ confusion comes from what companies do not say. The fear of being labeled a “greenwasher” is so great that many organizations don’t want to bring attention to what they are doing, especially if it is work-in-progress. They refuse to make any claims or release any data.

This leaves consumers with incorrect perceptions. People believe that the food/beverage industry is the most socially responsible. In fact, there is a huge environmental cost associated with agriculture and food production, making it quite damaging to the planet. Similarly, consumers believe Discovery Communications is much more eco-friendly than Viacom. In reality, Discovery has more eco-friendly content, but does not have a smaller environmental impact.

It makes you wonder what consumers think about you vs your competitors, doesn’t it?

We should think about...
  • How can we communicate with maximum clarity about our sustainability efforts?
  • Should we stop using green buzzwords that could be confusing?
  • Should we release more information about our green initiatives?
Sources: Landor 2009; New Scientist 2010
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