Burt’s Bees, Tom’s Top Green Brands: Here’s Why
The 5th annual ImagePower Green Brands Survey, done by Landor Associates, Cohn & Wolfe, and Penn Schoen Berland, was recently released. Not only did the survey rank the top green brands (Burt's Bees, Whole Foods, Tom's, Trader Joe's and Google top the list), it also revealed some insight about green consumers. While it is clear that the economy and price are top priorities for Americans, many are interested in purchasing green products and beginning to understand that economics and the environment aren't mutually exclusive.
While none of the Top 10 names in the fifth
annual ImagePower Green Brands Survey — led by Burt's Bees, Whole
Foods Market, and Tom's of Maine — are exactly shockers, the extensive
survey did turn up plenty of other surprises.
For one, the
recession was no match for consumer commitment to sustainable purchases,
both in the U.S. and around the world. And because it draws on more
than 9,000 responses from eight countries, the research — done by
Landor Associates, Cohn & Wolfe, and Penn Schoen Berland, all owned
by WPP, and Esty Environmental Partners — it paints a much fuller
picture of what sustainability means to consumers at this point, and why
the green connection is growing stronger.
asked Russ Meyer, Landor's chief strategy officer, to explain:
What role has the downturn been playing in people's buying decisions?
A: To me, the surprise was that this global economic
crisis had less of an impact than we thought it would. It's certainly on
people's minds, though, especially in the U.S., where 79% say they are
more concerned about the economy than the environment — that was more
than in any country we polled.
But still, 35% of consumers here
say they will spend more on green products, and 44% plan to spend the
same amount. And in China, India and Brazil, 70% of consumers are saying
they will spend more. I think that bodes well for green. It's also
interesting that in the developed countries, the biggest barrier was the
perception that green products are expensive, while in less developed
countries, the barrier is that these products just aren't as available.
Q: What about the top 10 brands in the U.S., which also include
Trader Joe's, Google, SC Johnson, Publix, and Ikea, as well as
newcomers Microsoft and Aveeno?
is nice to see tech companies makes the list, because I don't think most
people think about the carbon footprint of their online searches. But
in the U.S., energy use is seen as the main concern, so it makes sense.
And with what's going on in the Gulf right now, I'd expect that to
continue to be true. (Full disclosure — we work with BP.)
What are the main concerns elsewhere?
In India and Brazil, it's deforestation; in Australia, it's water. What
that means is there's a real global maturing of sustainability — it no
longer means one thing, but a set of concerns.
And in China,
there's a huge concern about certification marks — about 72% of Chinese
consumers rely on these when they shop, but they think the labeling is
confusing and not trustworthy, And really, when you look at what's
happened in China — including its milk problem last year — that makes
Q: Can you explain the tension between price and
concerns about the environment?
the U.S. especially, consumers are in a wait-and-see mode about the
economy, and so they are weighing their green purchases very carefully.
But we are seeing a breaking down of the old idea that a product can't
be green and a good value at the same time. And that sort of mirrors a
change we're seeing in corporate behavior — companies are increasingly
realizing they can be green and make money for shareholders.
With so many companies becoming increasingly — and more genuinely —
green, don't their corporate efforts become more or less invisible?
A: Absolutely. The brand advantage from sustainability
is decreasing everyday — the more companies become green, the less
they can differentiate themselves from one another. We're reaching a
tipping point, so that it's not that companies will be rewarded by
consumers for being green, but that companies that aren't
environmentally responsible will be punished.
there anything companies can do to prevent fading in to this
increasingly green landscape?
There are lots of companies doing great things for the environment in
their business practices — backstage, if you will, and consumers aren't
aware of it, even if shareholders are. I think many companies are
really missing a trick, because we know the environment is
relevant to consumers — why not tell them?
So companies need to
find the right ways to communicate their efforts, and I don't mean just
in corporate sustainability reports. Why not make that information
available in stores?