In Part 1 I suggested that one reason why a green or sustainable message doesn’t (in most cases) help to sell a product is that we, the inhabitants of high consumption countries, mostly have things pretty good. But that doesn’t mean we necessarily see it that way.

So my next two reasons for the failure of sustainable products to gain the traction we would like stem from a more self-centred view of the world.

Reason #2: More important concerns

Most of us are too busy with daily life to give much thought to how we can reduce our impact on the planet. By the time we’ve worked a full day, looked after the kids, cooked, cleaned, bought food, filled the car, stayed in touch with friends on Facebook, watched TV, done the laundry, paid some bills, visited family, been to the gym etc, etc, etc, most people have neither the time nor the desire to worry about what state the world will be in next year (let alone in a decade or a century).

And then there are our jobs to worry about…

Reason #3: Self-interest

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” Upton Sinclair

Despite rapid increases in the number of green jobs in some countries and industries, “business as usual” companies remain by far the largest sources of employment.

If you work for a car company or dealer, it’s unlikely you will vote for a policy that improves public transport so much that it is no longer necessary to own a car travel. The same applies to coal miners, forestry workers and people in a whole bunch of polluting, energy intensive or wasteful industries. And this isn’t just about votes; it affects buying patterns too.

The curious thing is that the development of a truly sustainable economy is a massive task that will create huge numbers of jobs in the enabling industries. Jobs lost in some sectors will be more than offset by the creation of jobs in new sectors. But this represents change, a reduction in certainty, and that makes most of us feel uncomfortable.

How do we get people to move their focus from the minute details of their daily lives to the bigger picture? Let’s forget about saving the world for a moment, and go back to some really basic lessons from Marketing 101.

Solution #2: Focus on quality and service

Quality doesn’t have to mean expensive, it just means being well-suited to its purpose. That said; high quality and good service can obtain a higher price. If Jasper Coffee’s single source Arabica coffees didn’t taste great they wouldn’t sell. They just happen to be grown sustainably.

Planet Earth Cleaning Company is responsive, proactive and focuses on quality. For the client, the increased recycling rates and non-toxic products used are almost incidental benefits.

Solution #3: Compete on price

Doesn’t this immediately contradict Solution #2? Not necessarily.

It can’t be denied that many businesses are based on an aggressive discounting model. And low prices are a big factor in the rapid growth of online shopping. Even so, competing on price is usually a long way down my list of favourite marketing techniques. In any case, what I’m looking at here is situations in which the more sustainable option comes with a natural price advantage.

Using old bricks to build a new home saves a huge amount of energy. Careful demolition allows bricks to be recovered, cleaned up and sold for a lower price than new bricks.

Processes may need to be modified to achieve a lower price point. When Replas installed robots in its production department it cut the costs of manufacturing its recycled plastic products. This made them more economically attractive than competing products made from wood and steel, and the whole business grew.

Sustainably-minded business can not only compete but thrive in the general market place.

 On to Part 3

Back to Part 1

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