Who are Green Consumers? What are they buying, and why? As companies continue to increase investment in sustainable products and services, leading executives and faculty gathered at UCLA to address vital questions to ensure success on May 10 2012. The Institute’s Corporate Partner Program brings together executives and academics to discuss research in corporate sustainability and feature talks by leading practitioners in the field. This event was co-sponsored by the UCLA Center for Corporate Environmental Performance and Net Impact.
Magali Delmas, Professor of Management at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and the Anderson School of Management, started by presenting her latest research on Green Markets and Greenwashing. While noting the risks and challenges of “greenwashing,” Delmas noted that, in just 20 years, U.S. sales of organic food and beverages have surged from $1 billion (in 1990) to nearly $27 billion (in 2010). As well, Delmas presented a “Green Consumer Bell Curve” (comprised of Dark Green Consumers, Light Green Consumers, Excuse-Makers, and Brown Consumers) and survey results indicating that people purchase green products primarily to achieve “improved personal health” – secondary to “reduced environmental impact.”
Following Professor Delmas, Joe Baratelli, Executive Creative Director at Rubin Postaer and Associates (the second-largest advertising agency in Los Angeles), presented his firm’s work on behalf of Honda Motor Company. Baratelli presented its campaign for the Honda Insight hybrid-electric vehicle and said his firm is currently preparing for the launch of the 2013 Honda Fit EV (electric vehicle). To reach Green Consumers, Baratelli emphasized the importance of developing an emotional connection – and the goal “to be a company society wants to exist.”
Debbie Levin, President of the Environmental Media Association (EMA), a nonprofit organization that harnesses the entertainment industry and media to motivate sustainable lifestyles, explained how the EMA helped the Toyota Prius achieve outstanding success with Green Consumers. She noted the EMA’s role in placing the Prius with celebrities such as Cameron Diaz. The vehicle became synonymous with “cool,” thereby helping motivate the trend of purchasing the Prius. Levin said that celebrities want to be smart and passionate about causes, so celebrities love supporting and affiliating with the environmental movement.
Finally, Steve Boyd, General Manager of North America at Tern Bicycles, a leading manufacturer of folding bicycles, presented his firm’s efforts in approaching Green Consumers. Boyd cited exemplar companies Patagonia and Method in emphasizing the importance of authenticity. He said Green Consumers are the “most passionate and savvy” group, so it’s important to live sustainability every day. Boyd also noted the importance of “re-framing” for Green Consumers; his product is not “just a bike” but rather a solution to three of our largest problems: congestion, pollution, and obesity.
The Corporate Partners Workshop was followed by a celebration for the Class of 2012 Leaders in Sustainability Graduate Certificate Program. At that event, the keynote speaker was Gary Lawrence, Chief Sustainability Officer at AECOM Technology Corporation, a UCLA Corporate Partner.
The Corporate Partners Workshop was sponsored by the Institute’s Corporate Partners Program, the UCLA Center for Corporate Environmental Performance, and Net Impact.
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