Green Religiosity

Marketing_green_jpegOriginally posted March 16, 2008
by David Wigder, Marketing Green

Last week, the green movement
received endorsements from some very high places. Religious leaders
that represent the two largest Christian denominations in the US – more
than 66 million Catholics and 16 million Southern Baptists – declared that environmental protection has religious significance.

For Southern Baptists, “any damage we do to this world is an offense against God Himself”; for Catholics, “environmental pollution” is considered a “sin”. While
not the first religious groups to endorse action to protect the
environment, they were significant given their political, economic and
social clout within the US and globally.
 

Notably, the Southern Baptist Declaration calls for action on climate change despite an ongoing debate within the community as to its cause. The Declaration states that “even
in the absence of perfect knowledge or unanimity, we have to make
informed decisions about the future…Humans must be proactive and take
responsibility for our contributions to climate change—however great or
small.”
  

Green marketers should consider this turn of events.  To be clear, Marketing Green
does not advocate exploitation of religious beliefs for commercial
gain.  Nonetheless, marketers should recognize that such significant
shifts in church doctrine will likely impact consumer attitudes towards
the environment, and perhaps, consumer behavior longer-term.  As such,
these are trends that green marketers need to understand. 
 

In fact, such a connection
between religious attitude and behavior was explored in a seminal paper
published by Martin Fishbein and Icek Ajzen more than 30 years ago. In
this work, Fishbein and Ajzen established that while religious attitude
could not be correlated with any single behavior, it was highly
correlated with multiple behaviors over time. (“Attitudes Towards Objects as Predictors of Single and Multiple Behavioral Criteria,” Psychological Review, Vol 81, No. 1 p. 59-74, 1974)
 

Said another way: “general
attitudes toward religion poorly predicted specific behaviors, but
strongly predicted aggregated behaviors over time (e.g., church
attendance over one year vs. on a particular Sunday).” (Professor Eric
Weiser, Curry College, MA, 2007). 
 

This observation may have particular implications for the environment. First, attitudes toward green will likely evolve as the faithful absorb amended church doctrine. Second, behavior change is likely to follow over time as more people put their beliefs into practice.  

As such, marketers may find
a growing audience that is more receptive to green messaging as well as
one more willing to modify its behaviors to align with its underlying
religious beliefs. 
Green
marketers should consider expanding their reach to include those that
believe that environmental protection is a religious obligation, or
even more broadly, to include those who at a minimum subscribe to
a denomination that does.  

Moreover, as attitudes
regarding religion and the environment evolve, green marketers have an
opening to impact behavior by providing greener product alternatives to
an increasingly receptive audience.

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