Harvard Business Review on the Elusive Green Consumer

The following article first appeared in Harvard Business Review , July-August 2019 Issue

Consumers—particularly Millennials—increasingly say they want brands that embrace purpose and sustainability. Indeed, one recent report revealed that certain categories of products with sustainability claims showed twice the growth of their traditional counterparts. Yet a frustrating paradox remains at the heart of green business: not all consumers who report positive attitudes toward eco-friendly products and services actually follow through with their wallets.

Narrowing this “intention-action gap” is important not just for meeting corporate sustainability goals but also for the planet. Unilever estimates that almost 70% of its greenhouse gas footprint depends on which products customers choose and whether they use and dispose of them in a sustainable manner—for example, by conserving water and energy while doing the laundry or recycling containers properly after use.

This article identified five actions for companies to consider: use social influence, shape good habits, leverage the domino effect, decide whether to talk to the heart or the brain, and favor experiences over ownership. Each point is well supported with examples, so we encourage you to give the article a read.