The untapped ‘market’

17 08 2009

The average consumer cares about ‘sustainability’ more than we might assume:

A recent study on consumer behavior from Deloitte indicates that there is an unrealized, latent consumer demand for sustainable products; almost half of consumers consider sustainability in purchasing decisions.

The study, which was released in July, was commissioned by the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA). It surveyed over 6,000 shoppers in 11 major retail markets. It found that, in contrast to the standard view on “greenies,” consumers considering sustainable products are not minimalist, nor easily categorized.

They are spread diversely along age range, education level, household size and income. On average, they did tend to be a little older, wealthier, and educated, but with a wide distribution across demographics.

The overall findings of the study indicate that this market is still heating up and there is much room for improvement by business:

  • More than half of shoppers consider sustainability when purchasing.
  • While sustainable product attributes are not the dominant purchasing driver for the majority of consumers, they tend to be a tie-breaker when price and performance are in parity
  • Consumers who tend to purchase green buy more products per trip and shop more often
  • Many find in-store communication on sustainable products lacking, at the same time they say it has a large impact on their purchasing decisions.

The study concludes that there is an accumulated latent demand for products with significant sustainable attributes which carry similar performance and price to standard products.

While almost all shoppers surveyed are aware of, or looking for, sustainable product attributes in their purchases, only 22% walked out of the store with sustainable products. With sustainable attributes being a tie breaker in purchasing decisions, in-store communication having heavy influence on purchasing behavior and green consumers being more brand loyal, a very large, attractive target market is being created.

From Globe-Net


So it Begins: European Union banning energy-inefficient goods

25 04 2009

European Union to Ban Goods that aren’t Energy Efficient : TreeHugger.

Hate to sound cocky, but… well… i called it. I should have made a bet with someone, but i take little to no credit–the writing was on the wall…

This is the beginning of a crucially important–but inevitably rife–shift to eco-protectionism…

…its going to tick off foreign manufacturers (especially in the developing world), and rightly so. But it’s going to happen regardless, so let’s hope they can leapfrog.

…the next rational step will be banning ‘unsustainable’ goods and even unsustainable produce… the question is who will define sustainable, why, and how…

…this is why i think a global life-cycle assessment initiative tied to something like the (floundering) WTO would be a rather good idea.

Here’s to hoping!

The Idea of a Local Economy | Wendell Berry

11 02 2009

Not sure if you’ve read this one before, but Sarah passed this on to our 502 group:

… I am assuming that there is a valid line of thought leading from the idea of the total economy to the idea of a local economy. I assume that the first thought may be a recognition of one’s ignorance and vulnerability as a consumer in the total economy. As such a consumer, one does not know the history of the products that one uses. Where, exactly, did they come from? Who produced them? What toxins were used in their production? What were the human and ecological costs of producing them and then of disposing of them? One sees that such questions cannot be answered easily, and perhaps not at all. Though one is shopping amid an astonishing variety of products, one is denied certain significant choices. In such a state of economic ignorance it is not possible to choose products that were produced locally or with reasonable kindness toward people and toward nature. Nor is it possible for such consumers to influence production for the better. Consumers who feel a prompting toward land stewardship find that in this economy they can have no stewardly practice. To be a consumer in the total economy, one must agree to be totally ignorant, totally passive, and totally dependent on distant supplies and self-interested suppliers …

You can read the rest here.


A tradeoff between principles and safety

28 01 2009

While you don’t have to agree with everything Christopher Hitchens says (I don’t always), you can always count on him giving a thoughtful, well-spoken (and often crass) argument.

A Problem of Knowledge

18 01 2009

ScienceInsider, the science-policy counterpart to the journal Science, has reported that Louisiana state educators may not have the ability to teach Intelligent Design (ID) in schools. Officially, teachers have the ability to teach “controversial” scientific theories, such as evolution, origins of life and global warming. Really? While it pains me that these are considered “controversial” as science, I suppose there’s some morsel of relief that they can now be taught.

What is making many scientists anxious is that this can open the door for the teaching of ID.  Proponents of ID claim it’s a issue of censorship, and that rival ideas to Darwinian evolution deserve strong footing from where a fair comparison can be made. I see this as deceit: the issue with ID is not that it is presented (an issue of censorship), but that it is presented as science (an issue of authority). ID is a religious or philosophical stance, and that stance I cannot revoke (no matter how absurd I may think it is), but it is not a scientific stance. We live in a society that trusts scientific claims to knowledge and religious claims less so. My view of the matter is that proponents of ID want to elevate creationism to a “science” to gain authority for their belief.

There are several reasons why ID cannot be counted as science. The first is that it makes no testible hypotheses. How do you test for a cosmic creator? The second is that it is an empty explanation. You can explain anything by saying “God (…oops, I mean ‘some creator’) made it”.  For each of these points I will defer to the blunt oration of Christophy Hitchens: “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”; “a theory that explains everything explains nothing.” The third reason ID cannot be counted as science (and should not be given equal status with evolution) is that not enough scientists believe it as science. This point may seem strange, but it comes with how humans understand knowlede and truth. Theoretically, truth is indifferent to human views; truth is not democratic. Knowledge is dependent on human perception and the suffrage of those who study knowledge. String theory is an example of science that is not testible but still science because scientists believe it.

ID will require some good arguments and evidence if it should ever be considered scientific. I doubt this will ever happen though. Most arguments for ID seem to involve how incomprehendible the universe is. The problem is that in no way does the observation of incomprehension lead to the sole conclusion of some celestial creator; the problem is that ID simply doesn’t have any good arguments.

‘Grocery Pains’: the cognitive impact of impending catastrophe

12 01 2009

What do you think the social effects of reports like this are?

Do they inspire? If so, what–change, disillusion, anger, nihilism? Apropo a chat with JT and the Zizek vids below, when the scale of a projected crisis is this large, what’s the natural human response? Can we cognitively handle data like this in a productive way? If so–how?

Are negotiated international targets effective?

9 01 2009

From the BBC Environment reporter’s personal blog:

“…As economist George von Furstenberg has argued, governments have a habit of promising more than they can, or intend to, deliver. When the target date is further away than the next election, it’s not a bad electoral strategy, but there is surely a tendency for the public to assume that if a stringent target has been set, the problem is on the way to being solved.

So are targets worthwhile? Would all the time and energy not be better spent simply developing and implementing policies that deliver firm benefits?

Europe is failing to curb biodiversity loss, not because of anything to do with the target, but because it doesn’t yet have the right policies in place to stem all the things that drive biodiversity loss. It’s even disappearing inside protected areas.

Over the next year, governments will wrangle long into many nights about another set of targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. This time around, it will be even more complex, given that curbs for developing countries are also on the horizon.

Then in 2010, they’ll meet to discuss why they have collectively failed to meet the 2010 biodiversity target.

Concerned observers will look, shake heads, lament the failure and demand a tougher target next time.

What is right? I don’t know. But I think it’s worth asking whether the whole notion of target-based environmental treaties is wide of the mark, and whether governments would be better off just taking measures that they know will work.”

Worth a think (?)