Fast Company

Sustainability: Inconsistencies in the Green Market

In the never ending cycle of green paradoxes, many consumers say they would pay more for green technology, but the VCs have slowed their investments there. Granted consumers were talking about home electronics and the VCs referred to alternative energy, but it still shows how market forces aren't suddenly going to solve our climate problems.

A survey released this week by Forrester Research found that 12 percent of Americans would pay more for consumer electronics that use less energy or were made by a company with a positive environmental image. An additional 41 percent are concerned by the environment but not sure they would pay extra for a green computer. That still leaves 47 percent who don't really care. But it stands to reason that those who are willing to pay more for green products are probably the ones with the most buying power.

In contrast, a recent column in The Nation highlighted how the investment community is losing interest in green technology in favor of private security and defense companies.

There's still a significant sum going towards clean energy ($4.2 billion to be exact.) But this year, companies focused on security and defense eclipsed the green tech firms, earning $6 billion -- almost double what they made in investments last year. Naomi Klein describes how ridiculous it is that guns and border fences will protect us from disasters in The Nation:

The ultimate expression of this second option is in Hummer's new TV ads: the gas-guzzler is seen carrying its cargo to safety in various disaster zones, followed by the slogan "HOPE: Hummer Owners Prepared for Emergencies." It's a bit like the Marlboro man doing grief counseling in a cancer ward.

I guess if Johnathan Goodwin retooled the engine that would make sense (see Motorhead Messiah from the November issue). But something tells me Hummer hasn't created its own super fuel-efficient biodiesel model yet.

While the majority of consumers have yet to show significant interest in putting solar panels on their homes or setting up wind farms, a large part of that is the high cost of alternative energy sources. That could change if companies that work in green tech received more funding and/or the government implemented policies that were favorable to such companies. If consumers are willing to pay a little bit more for a green computer they may eventually come around to renewable energy when the price is right.

Add New Comment

5 Comments

  • Benjamin Wojcikiewicz

    I'm not sure that "Green consumer electronics" is the best indicator of the willingness of the market. The problem is that people don't see large returns quickly. Looking at the homebuilding market may be a better indicator. Recently published in Qualified Remodeler Magazine, findings from the National Association of Home Builders and McGraw Hill cited 2 significant things:
    1. 90% of Americans Agree that there are green issues.
    2. Green building will be a $40-50 bil. market by 2010 up from 7.4 bil. in 2006.
    Some of the biggest impacts on energy consumption come from how we live in our homes and places of business, how effecient they are at heating and cooling, etc. I don't thnk that interest is falling off, but I do think that people are focusing their energies on technologies that work and make a difference to their bottom-line quickly.

  • Christopher Hastings

    "But it stands to reason that those who are willing to pay more for green products are probably the ones with the most buying power."

    Maybe instead, "It stands to reason that those who are willing to pay more for green products are willing to allocate more of their disposable income on products that are green." Because if I don't care about Houdini-like "green" products, why would I waste my money on what could easily amount to a new branding scheme? It doesn't mean that buying green is the obvious solution when we are so far from having anyone certify what makes a product "green." Until we do though, it makes a great hip new branding scheme!

  • Kare Anderson

    We could get widely bvaried results depending on the choices offered - thus i do not buy the results/
    Read ore Brafman's book Sway, out next June + Paradox of Choice and Smart Choices
    - Kare, movingfrommetowe.com

  • Joseph Allan

    "But it stands to reason that those who are willing to pay more for green products are probably the ones with the most buying power."

    Maybe instead, "It stands to reason that those who are willing to pay more for green products are willing to allocate more of their disposable income on products that are green." Because if I don't care about Houdini-like "green" products, why would I waste my money on what could easily amount to a new branding scheme? It doesn't mean that buying green is the obvious solution when we are so far from having anyone certify what makes a product "green." Until we do though, it makes a great hip new branding scheme!

  • Joseph Allan

    We could get widely bvaried results depending on the choices offered - thus i do not buy the results/
    Read ore Brafman's book Sway, out next June + Paradox of Choice and Smart Choices
    - Kare, movingfrommetowe.com