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green@work : Magazine : Between Blue & Yellow : Nov/Dec 2003

Between Blue and Yellow
Will Environmentally Friendly Purchasers Please Stand Up?

by Katie Sosnowchik


Sixty-three million adult Americans—or 30 percent of the U.S. adult population—make purchasing decisions based on their personal, social and environmental values, according to a research report by the Natural Marketing Institute entitled Understanding the LOHAS Market: Identifying the LOHAS Consumer & Business and Branding Opportunities. The study suggests that the attitudes, behaviors and usage patterns of this large and growing LOHAS consumer group (LOHAS stands for Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) are significantly affected by their concern about human and planetary health—they want to integrate their values with their brand choices and purchasing behaviors.

Who are these emerging LOHAS consumers? They are individuals who say they are willing to spend up to 20 percent more for LOHAS products and services. Seventy-five percent agree completely that their purchase decisions are based on the health and sustainability effects on the world and the environment. They also have a high degree of influence over others—they are almost three times as likely as the general population to influence and teach others about the benefits of LOHAS-related products and services. Finally, this group has a significantly higher likelihood to associate personal values with companies and their brands (almost 2.5 times higher than general-population consumers).

And yet, in his column in this issue of green@work, Ecos president Paul Gilding talks about the dual personalities found in contemporary consumers like the ones above—qualities that are sometimes at odds with one another. As he describes it: “There is no ‘caring, sharing, green consumer’ any more than there is an ‘environment destroying, forest munching, SUV consumer.’ We all have a bit of both in us.”But which one will prevail in the long-term?

It is time for the American public, or at least the 63 million adult Americans from the NMI survey above—to put their money where their values are. While this issue of green@work predominately focuses on the environmental efforts of the auto industry—producers of a consumer product that represents a sizeable chunk of any purchaser’s disposable income—we need to remember that the choices we make in all of our purchases, from the automobiles we drive to the coffee we drink, do make a statement. It’s especially important this time of year, as we head to the shopping mall or the cybermall for our holiday buying—we must be conscious about which of our consumer mindsets will make the purchasing decisions. Earth-friendly choices are out there and, happily, increasingly easier to find each day. Retailers and manufacturers are watching what we buy.

What will end up in your shopping cart?

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