It Ain’t Easy Going Green

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By DHARM MAKWANA, 24 HOURS

Green sells, but who’s buying?

Savvy consumers aren’t.

In an Ipsos-Reid survey released yesterday, 63 per cent of
people suspect certain goods are labelled environmentally friendly as
part of a tactic to sell the product rather than save the earth.

Environmentalists familiar with the ploy call it "green-washing,"
but UBC marketing professor Dan Putler said such image overhauls don’t
dupe shoppers easily.

"People have an understanding that companies want to look good even when they’re not doing good," he said.

Consumers keen on making the labeLling process transparent are in favour of adopting third-party certification.

The system, already in place for B.C.’s forestry industry,
requires an item to first meet a list of standards then be labeled
accordingly before reaching market.

This step should help shoppers, often operating on an
information overload, lower their cynicism towards green issues,
according to Suzuki Foundation spokesperson Randi Kruse.

"When people are making consumer choices they’re looking for a
fast and easy answer for what’s best for the environment," she said.

While inroads for third-party labeLling are being made in the
organic foods sector, Putler said other industries would only consider
the move if there’s significant consumer demand.

Until that tipping point is reached people like Amy Katz,
editor of Greenpeace’s Green Living Guide, are urging shoppers to spend
more time researching their purchases.

"It’s a question of knowing what actual ingredients you want
and what you want to avoid just by having some product knowledge," she
said.

HOW GREEN?

The results from an Ipsos-Reid survey of 1,285 Canadian
homeowners showed shoppers’ doubt marketers intentions when it comes to
the environment.

Here are some results:

– 56 per cent of people who consider themselves green savvy consider some products sold as green to be a marketing tactic.

– 63 per cent of the total people surveyed consider some products sold as green to be a marketing tactic.

– 40 per cent of people would not be willing to pay more up front items such as green building products.

– 31 per cent of people admit to not knowing much about environmental issues.

This article was first posted at 24 Hours Vancouver on September 7, 2007 by Dharm Makwana.

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