Green Certifications: Do Consumers Care?

Half leaf

The same day I posted the whys and meanings of green certifications, I caught a link to a report that says that consumers pay little or no attention to the certifications. Consumers don’t trust the trustmarks. That is disheartening for those who are trying to do right by consumers—or even those who are looking for an effective marketing tool.

For familiarity, three U.S. government seals rank highest:

  • Recyclable (89% familiar),
  • Energy Star (87% familiar), and
  • USDA Organic (62% familiar).

Familiarity is one thing, but does the seal influence purchase? Some do:

  • Energy Star (31% always),
  • Recyclable (20% always),
  • USDA Organic (8% always), and
  • Smart Choice (7% always).

The most interesting point to me was the fact that most trustmarks fail to drive sales—most. To which consumers do the seals and certifications connect? To the “Enlighteneds.” According to this particular segmentation of consumers, there are: Enlighteneds (10% of consumers), Aspirationals (20%), Practicals (30%), and Indifferents (40%).

Enlightened consumers are the most driven by their values when making purchasing decisions and will go out of their way to reward companies who align with their social goals. Aspirationals are more likely to balance their ideals with convenience and often switch between social concerns, availability and price when making purchasing decisions. Practicals are looking for convenience and prioritize products based on price, quality and energy efficiency. Indifferents are the least motivated by social concerns and prioritize price, quality, convenience and products manufactured in the United States.” From Food Marketing Institute.

Want to hear the rest of the story? You can order the Conscious Consumer Report for only US$2,495. Knowledge can loses its appeal when you check the price tag.

Given the 400+ seals, there is a danger that seals and certifications will become so diluted that they are meaningless. Maybe they already are. When I saw the row of seals on a booth at the ABC Kids Expo, I thought, “Wow, they have a lot of certifications.” When I checked more closely, there were NO certifications. The seals represented memberships and affiliations. This isn’t meaningless, of course, but it was a let down.

There are times that certifications matter. As an example, coffee growers and marketers have made it really clear that there are three relevant certifications: organic (important for the health of the fields and the workers), fair trade (which indicates where profits go, that workers are owners not serfs on plantations), and shade grown (which is important for the workers). In this case, consumers who are concerned tend to be well educated about the three important seals to look for.

What seals and certifications matter in buying products for your family? As I wrote earlier, this will depend where your own values lead you, but it is worth seeking out those products that meet your expectations and aspirations. It may be worth it to you to reward those companies who make an effort to let you know more about themselves and their products through memberships and pledges as well as certifications.

In the next installment, I will go through some of the seals you may see when buying products for your baby and family.

See also:

Image © Budda |

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