Making it easier for consumers to be green
Sustainable behavior is a challenge for most businesses.
Even those that are ploughing through their own operations in order to eke out every possible resource and energy saving still face a Herculean task to become anything like a “sustainable business.” But one thing is certain: for businesses to get closer to this goal, they now need to look beyond their own factory gates and supply chain, and think how on earth to engage customers and consumers in more sustainable behavior.
Just when we thought we were getting to grips with the supply chain, now the whole “demand chain” stands in front of us too.
Sustainability & Consumers: Lessons Learned So Far
When it comes to engaging consumers, it’s fair to say we’ve learned two lessons.
First, allowing people to feel proud of their purchasing decisions on sustainability grounds (even when the decision may not have been made on those criteria) seems to be a good way to modify attitudes and subsequent behaviors in favor of further sustainable choices.
Second, we know the overt sustainability message will probably only resonate with a proportion of your target, and may not even resonate at all if it crosses the line and enters parts of their lives considered somehow sacrosanct. Tim Smit from the U.K.’s Eden Project sums it up perfectly:
“For most of us (sustainability) is all well and good, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of a cold beer and a warm shower.”
Communicating the Real Benefits of Sustainability To Consumers
So how do we get past this issue?
Even the argument of attaching personal benefits to more sustainable products and services falls short here, as these benefits would be poor compensation for what’s been given up. But could it be that there are other benefits we could communicate? Tangible benefits that have always been there, but just not really communicated?
Total Cost of Ownership
For example, what about the total cost of ownership? By that, I mean not just the purchase price, but the running costs too. So for everything in your house that has a plug at one end, that’s the cost of electrical energy to power the thing.
For sure, total cost of ownership has been looked at before by manufacturers and consumer alliances, but for some reason the concept has never really stuck.