Location of Switzerland in Europe on 1.Image via Wikipedia

As Earth Day approaches this week, I’ve got my mind on Green.

I recently saw a new Forrester report (European Green Shoppers Unveiled) highlighting that while 71% of the European population is concerned about the environment, only 12% of European adults can be defined as green shoppers (Forrester defines a Green shopper as someone thinking about the environment while shopping offline or online).

12%?  Wait a minute…aren’t Europeans supposed to be on the bleeding edge of sustainable living?  How can 71% of people care about the environment and only 12% actively use their pocketbooks to drive change?

European countries have long led the world in developing all things sustainable and several countries are early adopters when it comes to using sustainable energy (Spain announcing this week that it created 40% of its energy in March from wind). Germany, in particular is far ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to reducing, reusing and recycling.  A few months back, I wrote a this confessional post about how I practically received a Graduate degree in recycling after moving to Germany.

So what gives when it comes to considering the environment while shopping in Europe?

While on many levels European companies and consumers are way ahead when it comes to sustainability, there is still a large gap between concern and action when it comes to buying Green, unfortunately.

For quick answers on this dilemma, I went to my European wife…

According to my wife, Europeans are master recyclers and brilliant when it comes to bringing reusable cloth bags to the Supermarket, etc.  At a very young age she was taught (in school) how to reduce, reuse and recycle.  But, when she was young, buying Green wasn’t even close to mainstream.  If you wanted to shop eco-friendly, you shopped at a local farm (that’s hard when you live in a city) or grew your own vegetables at home.  Shopping Green was simply “fringe” and way too expensive.

In effect, my wife was taught to recycle outputs and show respect for nature…but shopping Green was considered a luxury (and only existed in very specialized shops).  Naturally, the mindset of Green = Luxury is hard to shake.

Of course, my wife & I now buy organic and Fair Trade whenever possible now.  Switzerland‘s COOP (where we often shop) does a great job of making eco products readily available alongside the classics.  However, my wife (along with other Europeans I know) believes that when it comes to buying Green…the landscape is still a bit too confusing.  Also, as a regular reader of “eco-test” magazines, she is becoming more skeptical of Green claims on product packaging.  The good news is that (at least here in Switzerland) “bio” food is getting cheaper and pretty competitive vs. the normal offering.

Is there a silver lining in any of this?

According to the Forrester survey, European green shoppers are more likely to be brand-loyal and to spend more online and across more categories than non-green shoppers. So, if retailers can get their “hooks” into those 12% of Euro Greens–they will likely find them very profitable over time.

Digital is also key

Green shoppers are also heavily engaged in online social media and are information-savvy, so retailers should exploit this and really focus on building best in Class Digital Experiences.

Other interesting demographics of the Euro Green Shoppers from the report.

  • Green shoppers skew mature and female. Sixty-one percent of green shoppers are women, compared with 40% of non-green shoppers (see Figure 1).
  • Green shoppers are well-educated and wealthy & live in big cities.
  • The Netherlands and the UK have the highest proportion of green shoppers, whereas Italy has the lowest.
  • Green shoppers have vigorous hobbies.

What do you think about all of this?

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