June 14th, 2010
Guest column by Diane Brossart, president of Valley Forward Association.
There’s a new shade of green coloring the way consumers are making purchasing decisions and it may be the silver lining in the economic recession our nation is experiencing.
Caution and anxiety are significantly impacting consumer choices today, according to a Going Green study by The Futures Company. Their national survey reveals that 81 percent of consumers are more cautious as a result of the recent economic turmoil.
Clearly consumer attitudes are changing, with 87 percent of those surveyed indicating it’s way too common for people to avoid taking personal responsibility by blaming others or the situation for their problems. Interestingly, 69 percent also agree that too many people today neglect their health because they assume medical science will fix any health problems.
Attitudes about the environment and sustainability are also changing. A total of 62 percent, compared to 49 percent a year ago, say people today consume far more of everything than they truly need.
Here’s the really good news – 72 percent of respondents indicated the economic downturn has helped them prioritize what’s important – and spending time with family ranked high on the list, moving up from 64 percent in 2007 to 71 percent today. More people are pointing to being satisfied with their lives as signs of accomplishment and success than at any time since the early 1990s.
By the same token, owning an expensive car or having a large home have decreased in importance over the last 20 years.
What does all this mean? According to Newsweek there will be fewer McMansions with four-car garages and more well-insulated homes, fewer Hummers and more Chevy Volts, less proprietary trading and more productivity-enhancing software, less debt and more capital, more exported goods and less imported energy. Most significantly, there will be new commercial infrastructures and industrial ecosystems that incubate and propel growth – much like the internet did in the 1990s.
While environmental activism is on the decline, environmental actions are steadily increasing, with more people recycling, reducing energy and basing their buying decisions on what is better for the environment.
The new shade of green coloring consumer choices is wrapped around a sense of responsibility based on a sustainability mindset. Consumers want companies to demonstrate that sustainability matters – they want to be educated about sustainability – and they want superior sustainable products.
That’s the new mantra Paul Leinberger of The Futures Company is touting around the nation. It’s not a trend – it’s here to stay, he says, and will influence purchasing decisions long into the future.
We should all take a page out of the playbook and help make the world a better place, which appears to be a growing priority for Americans. Good news at last!