Who The Blogosphere Says Is The Most Sustainable

According to J.D. Power and Associates’ 2008 Environmental Sustainability Report, four brands—Toyota, General Motors, Honda, and Whole Foods—have received the most positive attention in the blogosphere regarding eco-sustainability.

The report analyzed 40 million blog posts in the past six months in six major industries—automotive, retail, oil and gas, food and beverage, household products, and utilities. It is one of the first reports to consider consumer conversations in the blogosphere about sustainability, global warming, and purchase trends, and to categorize brands within these fields according to the amount of positive press they get from bloggers.

The best news to come from this study is that consumers appear to be displaying an unprecedented concern about environmental sustainability and are increasingly holding companies responsible for not offering eco-friendly products. And importantly, for the major brands, when consumers are uncomfortable with how to react on a personal level to sustainability, they look to the major brands to offer information, direction, and leadership.

According to Janet Eden-Harris, VP of the Web Intelligence Division at J.D. Power, “As more companies launch ‘green’ initiatives, consumers are becoming more skeptical and confused as to what’s real, what’s not, and where they should focus their energy.”

Consumers have cited habit, convenience, price, and perceived loss of functionality as hindrances to living and consuming more sustainably, but with the guidance of major brands, consumers are now more willing to pay the price than ever before.

According to the study, 62% of bloggers are now discussing action pertaining to environmental problems, a discernible shift from 18 months ago, “when many were debating whether or not some of these environmental issues even existed,” according to the study.

Clearly, brands that provide comprehensible demonstrations of how their products or services are “green-friendly”  and how their customers can differentiate between “green” and “not-so-green” will both benefit their bottom line and help consumer culture take a sustainable leap forward.

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10 Comments

  • David Rueckert

    Sampath, It's important to remember that demanding innovation in socially responsible business practices drives invention which leads to new industry and job creation. THe whole process of reinvention based on new standards is healthy for the economy. Instead of focusing on who will be left out based on cost of maintaining environmentally friendly products, you should also consider the new industry, training, and jobs, etc that CSR can create.

  • Sampath Srivatsan

    I agree with Rip of the point, making the customer understand between “green” and
    “not-so-green”- How can the customer be educated about products that are green? I feel that advertisements can be one of the powerful medium in educating the customer. It is the prime time an individual is evaluating the product/service before purchase. There can also be a “green catalogue” similar to yellow pages to give individuals the complete list of green products and services available in the market. Rest is in the hands of customer to decide and act consciously.

  • Sampath Srivatsan

    It is good to have a technology that saves us on the long run in spite of initial investment. However what would be the maintenance of those hybrid cars. It looks like we have less trained automobile mechanics in the market which ultimately forces an individual to service the cars with the dealer. This might be one of the concerns of all customers as this technology is new in the market and it is expensive to repair those cars. I feel the government needs to change policies to implement hybrid technology in all new manufactured cars resulting in helping the green movement.

  • JT Slayton

    Heather, you bring up a good point. One could easily assume that purchasing a hybrid car is just a practical investment in long-term fuel economy; however, it could be singularly “green”, or, more likely, both. In previous posts, you and Sampath asked: what is the economic threshold that will cause people who normally go green to buy less expensive, non-green products. It would be interesting to conduct a survey over the course of the next three years with the same “green” customers regarding their purchase patterns and shifting priorities. Would they choose partially green products opposed to completely green products? Would they choose based on a price threshold ($2 more is worth it to go green with individual products)? Would their purchase patterns remain green with certain products only?

  • Heather Sherbert

    JT you have to also remember, that with hybrids it may be more of an initial investment, but in the end there is a perceived savings to the consumer based on the fact that the hybrid gets more miles to the gallon. It would be interesting to determine if people who are buying hybrids are purchasing it more for the better fuel economy, or for the belief that they are helping the environment.

  • JT Slayton

    Another question to ask is which eco-friendly products are more cost-effective, at least in the long run, than non-eco-friendly products? Although the entire automotive industry is suffering, sales of hybrid cars were up last month. People may not trust the current drop in gas prices, and they may be investing in hybrid cars as a long-term survival tactic. Many people in this country are dependent on automotive transportation regardless of the condition of the economy. It’s amazing that there has been such a drastic shift in blogging about environmental concerns within the last 18 months. With such consumer communication, I wonder how consumer problem-solving will impact the green movement. We may be surprised to find that mutually compatible solutions (financial savvy and going green) are possible after all. After J.D. Power and Associates’ 2008 Environmental Sustainability Report, businesses themselves may look to bloggers for ideas that they can use to survive during economically challenging times.

  • Heather Sherbert

    Sampath brings up a interesting point, what will be the breaking point where eco-friendly consumers decide that saving money is more important than buying eco-friendly products? Is continuing to take the risk that the economy will not go into a deep recession worth the risk of losing potential customers now who are already starting to adjust their spending habits? These are both questions that businesses should start thinking about if they haven’t already. I know if I was a business owner, as much as I am for saving the environment, I would be more concerned with getting customers who will stay loyal during this time of recession.

  • Sampath Srivatsan

    It is great to hear the reports and support from customers on eco-friendly products manufactured via green initiatives by corporations. During difficult times of the economy, how long can the companies producing the eco friendly products and the consumers who buy can operate? When the market conditions are tight there is going to be changes in both aspects. I certainly agree with heather’s view point. Consumer will not spend the extra money during difficult economic times. The reason is organic and eco friendly products are costlier than regular products. People will not have luxury to spend when the environment is not suitable to spend more.
    I think the corporations doing green initiatives will slow down their path and would prefer to survive in business by refocusing their directions in the way they operate and produce.

  • David Rueckert

    This is great news and illustrates that a standardized reporting requirement for social responsiibility allows the cream to rise to the top in the corporate world. Companies willing to focus on sustainability and other socially responsible goals will be championed by the consumers that see their comparative performance record against other corporations.

    I agree with Heather's view on economics and consumption habits, and also add that one could argue that it is more ethical for a corporate executive to focus on ROI during economic slumps, than to expend corporate resources on eco-focused production methods. Should the status-quo be allowed/accepted during times of hardship, so that only the most cost-effective practices are employed in production? Who is the leader that first confronts the ethical dilemma in choosing to return cash to investors during economic downturns versus adopting "cleaner" production methods that might cost more and result in less EPS?

  • Heather Sherbert

    While I agree with your concept that companies that demonstrate how their products or services are “green-friendly” will benefit their bottom line, I think it is important to also look at the way the economy is currently doing. If the economy keeps on a downward trend as it has been doing the past few weeks, consumers may become more cost conscious and not be willing to spend the extra money on products just because they are more eco-friendly. I think in these increasingly difficult times it is important for vendors to not only create a “green-friendly” product or service, but also to ensure a perceived equitable price.