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Shoppers Get Greener... And Look Deeper

October 7, 2008

It’s cool to save the planet, even if it costs more. Despite rising gas prices and the growing housing crisis, half of all shoppers are buying products that are good for the environment and a third are proactively looking for greener products in stores, according to a recent survey conducted by WSL Marketing.

The New York-based company’s most recent Pulse survey tested a range of specific “green” behaviors and found that buying CFL light bulbs remained the most popular green behavior and 31% of people are using re-usable grocery bags. Other green practices on the rise include looking for biodegradable/recyclable packaging (28%), shopping at stores where sustainability is a priority such as Wal-Mart (22%) and avoiding products that have too much packaging (27%).

Another survey conducted by The Body Shop showed consumers are also increasingly interested in the specifics of a company’s business practices. The survey found that 76% of consumers are making more purchasing choices based on the corporate behavior and ethics of a company than they were five years ago, and 43% of those polled said that they make those purchasing decisions on a weekly basis.

According to The Body Shop survey, 70% of respondents cited quality of goods and trust in the brand as their criteria for buying a product; 39% said they purchase based on the ethical reputation of a company, while 38% said price and value is their criteria for purchase.

Shelley Simmons, director of brand and values initiatives for The Body Shop in North America, said consumers want “the story behind the product that assures them that the company has treated its suppliers fairly and that it has done its best to take into account its impact on the environment; and that perhaps someone has actually benefited from the sale of that product. The retail world is going to have to take notice of this powerful group of consumers. If they respond to the expectations of the eco-shopper everyone will benefit: customers, suppliers, the planet and the businesses themselves. It is a win-win for everyone.”

In concert with publishing the results of its survey—which included more than 9,500 consumers across the U.S. and Canada—The Body Shop launched a new initiative on Facebook to sign a “Together & Fair” Pledge to encourage shoppers to “think ethical” when making a purchase. By signing up, supporters make a commitment to tell at least one person a week about a new ethical product or service they have discovered.

“The power of the internet and word of mouth is huge,” Ms. Simmons continued. “We know from our findings that personal recommendations amongst friends, families and colleagues are extremely effective. Our instinct is that there are many more people out there who would make ethical purchasing decisions if they had the information easily at hand...Our new Facebook launch will encourage people to spread the word on retailers and businesses who are doing their best to support ethical initiatives that protect the planet and animals, stand up for human rights issues, support fair trade initiatives and make a positive difference.”

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