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While everyone speaks of helping the greater good, is anyone actually doing enough? Roy Morgan collected attitudinal data associated with the environment as part of its Single Source New Zealand programme (November 2013-December 2014).
The data shows that the majority of those surveyed are aware of environmental issues with 61.7% agreeing with the statement “At heart I’m an environmentalist”.
When looking at gender differences in this respect, Roy Morgan’s data says that women are more likely to agree with the statement “I try to recycle everything I can”. Interestingly, a minority of Kiwis (31.9%) agree with the statement “Threats to the environment are exaggerated”, and to prove that we men are a miserable, cynical bunch we are 19% more likely to agree with that statement!
Looking around other studies and reports presents some intriguing attitudes and suggestions in relation to green products and sustainability in general.
CLOSING THE VALUE-ACTION GAP
An article sponsored by the consumer goods company Unilever in The Guardian (http://bit.ly/1CU1fq6) looked at the issues that are currently facing the marketing of sustainability and its products.
The piece looks at the “value-action gap” that exists between what consumers say and do. So what can businesses do to help practice sustainable methods and engage consumers in a manner that will attract them to sustainable products?
A change of how the initial approach is made is key, according to the article. In this respect we read about a move away from the widespread use of what the writers call “existential angst” and guilt-tripping used to appeal to consumers.
A useful tool we found is called the Business Case Builder (www.business-case-builder.com). This is a site run by the Sustainable Lifestyles Frontier Group that offers advice for businesses on how to enable sustainable lifestyles across various industries.
One big takeaway from the information on the website is how to present sustainable products to consumers, what tactics should be employed to get the message across. Now let’s get some local perspective…
GO ON – TAKE IT PERSONALLY
Identifying the needs and wants of consumers is a message that is parlayed for any topic, but this mantra certainly seems to resonate most strongly in relation to sustainability. EECA’s Senior Communication Adviser Penny St John explains the role research plays in the body’s work:
“EECA consumer research always tries to identify what will motivate people to take action and understand the barriers that could prevent them becoming more energy efficient. That information is used in ENERGYWISE marketing and communication to make the emotional connection with consumers.”
The idea of making emotional connections is particularly prevalent. Going back to the research conducted by Roy Morgan, New Zealanders want to recycle and use sustainable products, yet are conscious of things such as price. In that respect, almost 75% of New Zealanders agree with the statement “Environmentally friendly products are overpriced”.
One supplier among many, probably, looking for Kiwis, and Government, to do more to promote sustainability is Daniel Gudsell, Marketing Director at ABODO Wood. Gudsell agrees that making that personal connection is vital to generating more interest, and sales, in sustainable and green products.
“In our experience, a focus on the individual rather than the environment tends to have more traction. We are not downgrading the importance of environmental issues, we just want to ensure there are enough viable options out there for future generations.”
We’ve covered the domestic consumer attitudes and best intentions to “go green”, but how does sustainability fit in when looking at building on a larger scale?
Looking around the globe, there have been some very successful examples of sustainable schemes and buildings. The Pertamina Energy Tower in Jakarta, the construction of which began last January and is due to be completed in 2020, will generate as much energy as it uses through wind, solar and geothermal energy.
An article that recently appeared on The Economist website looked at energy efficiency in new buildings. The article uses Circle Housing, a large British housing association, as an example. The association has 65,000 dwellings, whose tenants’ incomes are typically below £20,000 ($40,000) a year. Circle has replaced existing houses with “passive houses”, built from mass-produced prefabricated energy-efficient components at roughly the same cost as ordinary ones, and as a result the energy bills fell and affordability rose alongside efficiency.
Looking locally, there has been an increase in consumer demand for sustainable homes, according to Vanessa McGrath, Manager of Rating Tools for the New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC).
The NZGBC, using the Homestar scheme, is working with the construction industry to promote and encourage use of the tool. McGrath says this is important as interest in an energy efficient home and knowledge of good materials is only growing.
“We are running a very successful breakfast workshop series this year in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch on topics that we think builders and architects need to know more about: reducing site waste, sustainability in apartments, thermal envelope of the home, etc. We’re really targeting industry to try to improve knowledge and capacity to deliver sustainable homes, as a way of meeting growing consumer demand.”
Vanessa McGrath also explains that because of the increasing popularity of green homes more and more qualified assessors are using the tool: “We have reached a milestone with over 1,000 Homestar registrations – this is exponential growth.
“We are getting more precincts and communities using the tool – for example Matakana Green has 7 Homestar as a requirement for all new homes. Waterfront Auckland has made 7 Homestar a requirement for all apartments in the Wynyard Quarter – many of which Willis Bond & Co are developing.”
ABODO Wood’s Daniel Gudsell feels that the industry should be looking to generate a bigger buzz for green living through sustainable buildings, as the materials used are ones that consumers will interact with and use every day.
“We are blessed to be in an industry that has a natural product at its heart. People can easily create an emotional connection to a natural wood product they look at every day.
“We know that natural materials are good for people, the trick is to manufacture them in a manner which is sustainable and secondly ensuring that they don’t have a whole bunch of preservatives pumped into them to make them hang around for a bit longer.”
Daniel Gudsell finishes with a strong note: “Sustainability should be a given – it shouldn’t be something that people have to pay for.”