The Global Green Consumer

Introduction

Consumers are progressively aligning themselves more with social responsibility, predominantly on the environment. Consumers are taking action as they get more involved in social causes than they were earlier and expect their brands to do the same. The major issue that consumers are concerned about globally is protecting the environment. In the current environment of global interdependency and fiscal volatility, the global green consumer is fundamental; hence companies are seeking fresh ways to benefit from globalization through the lessening of overheads, reaching fresh clientele, and optimizing their operations. However, operating cross-borders trade, time zones, and business units occasionally hinders active operational procedures and inducement structures. Many leading companies are increasingly now aligning their brands with the more socially accountable and eco-friendly conduct and characteristics (Wigder, 2007).

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The companies aligning themselves to the new trend recognize the evolving consumer expectations, and hence to stay pertinent, they have to correspondingly evolve their brands. They also may be aiming to gain a competitive advantage by pioneering the eco-compliant product segment. This can enable the respective companies to enhance their reputation and likewise have a strong affinity to environmental matters. The pioneering firms in the eco-friendly market may also be trying to avoid the costly post-regulated period when it may be mandatory to adopt the environmental concerns in their brands. With the consumer sentiments shifting, political pressure consequently ensues. Influenced by recent court rulings, legislators in Washington are proposing legislation on climate change that will greatly impact U.S firms’ cost of doing business. Late entrants in the green branded products may be unable to convince consumers of the environmental credentials hence adversely affecting their brands. The companies can have their brands certified by influential environment agencies and associations to augment their integrity. The branding reinforces the marketability of their products and eventually contributes to improved sales (Sustainable, 1996).

The global green consumer is the environmentally-conscious customer who expresses this through specific actions targeted at improving the ecology and accompanying factors that ensure the preservation and end enhancement of the environment. The green consumer, therefore, identifies with companies that consciously promote environmental issues. Any product purchase, whether consumable or non-consumable, must reflect this idea. These types of consumers transcend all borders and have come to form an enormous market controlling or influencing national and international trends in consumer demands. Any company or country disregarding its profound reach in the world faces a serious backlash on its products. This was exemplified when Mia Farrow effectively linked the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing with genocide in Darfur, forcing the Chinese to reconsider their backing of the Sudanese government. The companies which ignore the green protocol will be economically hurt as consumers boycott them and ultimately won’t survive (Daley, 2007).

Market segmentation is the identification of homogenous target groups with similar needs, nurtured either through cultural or social backgrounds. These groups can either transcend borders, culture, economic, ethnic, and geographic benefits sought and lifestyles or be distinguished by the same factors. Cross-border market segmentation is similarly based on these variables as people differ from across borders due to different cultures and social backgrounds.

The global green consumer can be identified by the cross-border segmentation of the benefits sought. These are the products that have eco-features or have been identified with environmental variables. The global green consumer segment is not unique to one country and is a global consumer trait that conforms to the particular segment of consumers who usually shop for the green brand. This includes normal food items, energy products, pharmaceuticals, detergents, clothing, etc. The global green consumer is also influenced by ethical issues concerning the manufacturer or marketer. From the actual product to its packaging, waste disposal patterns, pollution, and wastage or misuse of energy during production and generally environment policy of the supplier. The global market consumer is usually an educated, affluent, and politically liberal individual.

The Emergence of the Global Green Market Consumer

The manifestation of the global green market has impacted every corner of the planet. The spectacle of global warning looming with noticeable shifts in weather patterns, food crisis, energy crisis, etc.; the issues in environmental concerns are looking all the more real. This has made the push for conservation and preservation be taken seriously by the major institutions in the world. Environmental agencies and consumer groups have led successful campaigns for proper conservation methods to be legislated by governments and implemented by all concerned individuals, including manufacturing companies and governments across the world. Any deviation or opposition to these measures has been met with stiff penalties or boycotts. All organizations have been urged to adopt the environmental measures, or they risk having boycotts led against them by these groups, which ultimately result in their products losing their appeal and hence leading to heavy losses of revenue. The green market consumer wholly evolves around the products as they have now become a global culture with other products viewed as unhealthy and detrimental to the environment.

Opportunities in the Green Global Market

Initially apathetic to the greens overtures, companies have come to realize the numerous opportunities available in these huge markets. Companies are now outdoing each other in trying to fork out ‘green products.’ The consumer awareness of the advantage of using some of these products, which are endorsed by the environmental associations, has opened up new markets for various companies. These new products range from food supplements, herbal medicine, beauty products, anti-fossil fuels, solar, fertilizers, etc. The environmental groups have also led to the emergence of vegetarian food restaurants, clean air advocates or anti-pollution, recycling plants, less use of plastics. Some of these campaigns have also resulted in the demise of some industries. The emergence of the renewable energy industry, leading to the growth of a new technology market, venture capital, etc., is evolving around the generation and distribution of renewable new products. When consumers are persuaded of “non-green” benefits, they become more orientated to embrace green products (whether promoted as such or not).

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The global green marketing initiative must comply with two objectives: Enhanced environmental attributes and customer approval (Hartman). However, marketing greens has not been as easy as envisioned for a multiplicity of reasons. The majority of consumers seek to gratify their special desires prior to considering those of the globe. Consuming greens for green’s sake products frequently don’t meet the essential needs that the majority of individuals want from their products. To enhance market penetration in the global green market, a company can adopt the following five measures. Inform consumers using marketing communication that associates environmental merchandise attributes with preferred consumer advantage (e.g., “pesticide-free produce is healthier,” “energy-saving bulbs saves money”). Structure environmental merchandise attributes as “answer” for consumer requirements, e.g., “rechargeable batteries offer longer functioning.” Construct attractive and informative Web sites on environmental products’ preferred significance. Make certain that environmental products and consumer needs are explicit, significant, and certified. Promote affirmative interactive social and internet communication networks with convincing, appealing, or compelling information regarding environmental products. To expound on its recent successes and the rapidly increasing orders for fresh renewable power, Global Green Solutions Inc. (OTCBB: GGRN) has reorganized company operations to center on its profitable phase Global Greensteam production. Greens team converts waste biomass to renewable spray for manufacturing processes and electrical power co-generation. Through its inventive equipment and consumer value-focused production model, the Greens team has generated remarkable attention internationally. GGRN now has signed and forthcoming contracts with blue-chip manufacturing firms, including Aera Energy LLC, a big California oil and gas manufacturer, and SAPPI Ltd., one of the world’s principal pulp and paper companies. The company is therefore taking advantage of environmental awareness to reposition itself into a major producer for the global green market.

The Limitations Encountered in Researching

Researching the global green customer is limited by several factors: Cross-Cultural differences, information penetration, differing regulations, economic limitations, etc.

The global market research is hindered by the limited information availability of the newly formulated products. The product range is diverse as it encompasses all the major consumer aspects. The fact that the products are new in the market has made the consumer knowledge limited. Market research is also limited in its scope as the product range and innovation is confusing to the consumers as every company embarks on labeling its products green. The fact that the consumers are spread across different countries means there are diverse cultural, ethnic, and economic disparities that are unique to each geographical region. A company researching for a particular product has to consider whether to limit its research per region, economic sector, religion, etc.

Regulations governing different regions cause a limitation in researching the global green market. Some countries have erected tariffs that form a barrier to cross-border trade among nations. Different cultures and religions in the world offer a diverse coverage area for analyzing the market. Several regions adopt the green initiative wholeheartedly, while others are hostile to the environmental groups due to mainly economic and cultural differences. In the developing world, companies marketing greens are viewed as elitists as the issue of hunger, and daily sustains are more eminent to these groups. Economic issues are therefore crucial in researching the green markets. A country like Lithuania uses nuclear energy for electrical generation. Due to its lack of alternative sources of energy, it’s reluctant to embrace the environmental initiative and is hostile to the green market promoters and researchers. The opportunity of initiating alternative natural sources of energy like wind, solar, and water is viewed with suspicion. Political considerations are also a hindrance as countries’ drive for economic development and aggression make them hostile to environmental groups and limit trade within their borders. In China, India, North Korea, and Sudan, environmental concerns are not a priority. The country’s aggressive drive towards economic and political power has made them overlook these ecological considerations. Market research in these regions is limited by the barriers of trade and regulations. To discern the consumer impact of the global market is limited by access to the consumers. The economic status of these regions limits their ability to convert to the green market.

Leading consumer companies keep up with the impact of environmental issues on the consumer markets and to brand values, whether positively or negatively. Several companies are now aggressively promoting bold initiatives aimed at enhancing their green credentials. Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, had for long been criticized for its adverse labor practices, poor staff medical benefits, and a no-environmental record. Due to its being a large purchaser and retailer of consumer goods, Wal-Mart was in a prime position to influence change among its customers in its shops and malls. The company could improve its poor environmental record and impact positively on the community while saving funds, adding on revenue, and positively enhance its brand image. From 2004, Wal-Mart aggressively embarked on a green initiative with a program dubbed as goals regarding sustainability, I.e., 100% renewable energy, zero waste, and sustainable products in resources and the environment. This initiative was made a major component of the company’s marketing strategy and branding.

Wal-Mart has had environmental campaigns like; selling organic cotton yoga outfits – selling almost 200 000 thousand in less than ten weeks; selling 100MM compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), etc. The company has sued its enormous marketing sway to profoundly promote the products in its stores, and similarly, its purchasing power to enable it reduces the costs considerably. The company is also forcing its suppliers to adopt more sustainable measures. In 2008, Wal-Mart launched a program dubbed Sustainability 360º. This is aimed at enlisting its staff, suppliers, consumers, and the local communities to join in the environmental impact campaign. It has sponsored meetings, seminars, and summits to enlighten the above groups on the message. The company has also developed a brand positioning market strategy aimed at keeping its long-term objective of driving low costs goods and promoting affordable green products that are targeted at sustainable health. Their tag line is now reading, “Save Money. Live Better”.

Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott, in endorsing environmental sustainability as part of his core stratagem, declared that the firm would no longer be judged on its aspirations but rather on its activities.

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To ensure the improvement of its brand name, Wal-Mart responds to consumer concerns about the ecosystem by investing in measures targeted at promoting green initiatives. The company is using five actions aimed at this green enhancement, by first being accountable or acknowledging that as a corporation, it is part of the environment. This is done by issuing statements highlighting this and hence will attract customers looking for green brands. It also is auditing its products’ sourcing, utilization, and dumping to ascertain their lifecycles and hence their environmental impact.

Secondly, Wal-Mart is opening up its stores by providing public disclosures on its products to the environmental groups for assessment of their impact. This is in line with the Global Reporting Initiative based on sustainability guidelines set by the organization and endorsed by UNEP. Environmental and social reporting has been endorsed by over 1,250 companies in over sixty countries using this framework. Another way Wal-Mart is signifying transparency is through association with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with the National Resource Defense Council and Environmental Defense (E.D.). The NGOs partnership provides credibility as consumers regard them as the industry watch. This has provided an enviable partnership that ensures Wal-Mart operations and supply chain are more sustainable, and the NGO has therefore endorsed its environmental efforts.

Wal-Mart has endeavored to be credible as other companies green initiatives are scoffed at by the public and environmentalists at large. This has been done by starting with its internal operations, then its products and services, and then through its marketing communications. Wal-Mart, recognize consumer are holding the companies accountable for the merchandise they purchase hence expect a backlash if their lifecycles are not sustainable. Eco-labels used to tag the consumer items reinforce consumer expectations in identifying the green items. The effect on the sales of green items has been tremendous, and Wal-Mart is actively seeking to commercialize this greenness. The company is making bold decisions to redefine its strategy while reshaping its market dynamics. Through its program of ‘Acres for America,’ Wal-Mart initiative aims at donating vast acres of land to the authorities. This is another way of enhancing its corporate image by giving back to the community.

Conclusion

The global green market has had a major impact on consumer markets across the world. Consumer demands are overly now shaped by the products they are purchasing having a ‘green’ or environmental sustainability aspect in it. Even non-product consumer producers are required to show their environmental awareness through their community programs. Companies that ignore this face consumer boycotts and a decline in their sales revenues. The market for green items is therefore enormous and diverse in its scope.

The global green marketer must, however, satisfy two major objectives, i.e., that of improving the environmental quality and, secondly, rewarding their clientele. Ignoring one or the other or favoring one at the expense of the other will alienate the other. The company’s preoccupation with just greening their products while forgetting their customer’s needs can make them lose their clientele. When the consumers are first entreated to their palatable needs, then the ‘green’ aspect will set in.

Reference

Clinton Praises Wal-Mart’s Environmental Practices. 2008. Web.

Commission of the European Communities, Brussels, (2001) GREEN PAPER on European Union Consumer Protection. 

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Consumer Attitudes Toward Cross-Border Brand Alliances: Adding a Consideration of Country of Origin Fit, Larry L. Carter, Jr. (2002).

Global Green Standards: SO 14000 and Sustainable Development, International Institute for Sustainable Development, 1996.

Position Paper on the Green Paper on Retail Financial Services with particular Focus on the Issue of Database Access (2007) European Commission, BRUSSELS.

The Wal-Mart You Don’t Know, Charles Fishman (2003). 2008, Web.

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