A series of media reports and books, such as The Green Consumer
Guide (Elkington & Hailes 1989), have given many people
the impression that the environment can be saved if individuals
are responsible in their shopping habits and buy only environmentally
sound products. The idea is that firms wanting to take advantage
of this new demand for green products will change their production
processes and redesign their products to meet the demand. Environmentally
sound goods will become profitable. This view has been reinforced
Sustainable Development means a change in consumption
patterns towards environmentally more benign products, and a change
in investment patterns towards augmenting environmental capital.
(Pearce, Markandya & Barbier 1989, p. xiv)
The better informed and environmentally conscious consumers of
the future will demand to know the environmental impact of many
of the major products and services they intend to purchase. (ESD
Working Groups 1991a, p. 58)
The tendency for consumers to prefer environmentally sound products
has already become evident. Surveys show that a significant proportion
of consumers, particularly young mothers in Australia and other
high-income countries, make an effort to buy green products such
as pump packs, unbleached papers and items made of recycled paper.
About 28 per cent would pay more for safe aerosols and biodegradable
plastic products, and 35 per cent for natural foods that were not
produced using pesticides. The evidence on consumers' willingness
to take a stand by refusing plastic bags or overpackaged goods is
These signs have prompted a surge of advertisements and labels
claiming environmental benefits. Green imagery is used to sell products.
Caring for the environment has become a marketing strategy. Often,
the claims have very little substance. Greenpeace campaigners Dadd
and Carothers (1990, p. 10) claim that Chevron, a multinational
oil company, spends about five times as much publicising its environmental
actions as it does on the actions themselves.
Marketing managers who recognise the opportunities that might be
opened up by the growth of green consumerism can encourage their
firms to invest in 'clean' technology and then 'market' their products
on that basis. They can also convey to their firms the potential
for environmentally damaging activities or discharges to receive
adverse publicity. Environmental departments tend to concentrate
on monitoring compliance with regulations and liaising with government
bodies, the public and environmentalists. However, there is the
potential for them to take part in formulating company objectives
and influencing production processes. Quality assurance departments
have been able to integrate quality as a concern throughout some
firms and to ensure that it is continually monitored. If environmental
considerations could be incorporated into quality concerns, this
would also influence technological development (Schot 1992, pp.
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