Green Messages Can Confuse Consumers
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
In NPR business news we take a closer look at brands that are Earth friendly.
As you might have noticed, the environmental movement has gone mainstream. More consumers try to buy things they think are better for the environment, and they do so in part based on how they perceive a brand. Ah, but a new study shows there's still a big gap between looking green and going green.
NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports.
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YUKI NOGUCHI: Here's the problem: when a company spends millions of dollars on television ads and a green and yellow flower logo you start to think this is good for the planet, even if what you're doing is buying gasoline.
PIERRE BERTHON: They call themselves Beyond Petroleum. Well, if they were beyond petroleum then the majority of their business would be in alternative energies. But 99 percent or 95 percent of BP is still focused on petroleum.
NOGUCHI: That's Pierre Berthon, marketing professor at Bentley College. He asked Generation Y consumers which brands they consider Earth friendly. BP ranked sixth on the list. Number one was Toyota, maker of the Prius. But Berthon points out that Toyota also makes plenty of SUVs and trucks that diminish its claim to greenness.
Meanwhile, Nike gets a bad rep, even though it recycles shoes and uses organic material. It ranks ninth on Berthon's worst list. In other words, consumers are a little confused. But that's to be expected.
BERTHON: I think, as a society, we're learning the language of environmental responsibility, and the rules haven't been agreed upon as yet.
NOGUCHI: But Berthon says consumers and businesses will eventually work those rules out.
Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington.
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