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Who are the green consumers?

Understanding the demographics of green consumerism can help entrepreneurs explore the environmental market, and home in on likely prospects. Research has shown that green consumers:

  • are sincere in their intentions, with a growing commitment to greener lifestyles;

  • almost always judge their environmental practices as inadequate;

  • do not expect companies to be perfect in order to be considered 'green'. Rather, they look for companies that are taking substantive steps and have made a commitment to improve.

However, they also:

  • tend to overstate their green behaviour, including the number of green products they actually use;

  • want environmental protection to be easy, and not to entail major sacrifices;

  • tend to distrust companies' environmental claims, unless they have been independently verified;

  • lack knowledge about environmental issues, and tend not to trust themselves to evaluate scientific information about environmental impacts. However, at the same time they are eager to learn, and this means that consumer education is one of the most effective strategies that entrepreneurs can use.

The most responsive age group tends to be young adults, many of whom are influenced by their children. In addition, women are a key target for greener products, and often make purchases on behalf of men.

The best 'green' customers are people with more money to spend. As a result, the most promising products for 'greening' tend to be at the higher end of the market. The most promising outlets for green products are retail stores frequented by better-off shoppers.

In general, green consumers have the education and intellectual orientation to appreciate value; they will understand evidence that is presented in support of environmental claims.

In the US, children and teens are generally more concerned than adults about the environment, and are more knowledgeable about green alternatives. Increasingly, they influence their parents' purchasing decisions. Equally importantly, millions of them will reach adulthood in the next decade, and gain purchasing power of their own.

At the opposite end of the age spectrum, US consumers born before the 1950s are the least 'green'. As their numbers diminish, their share of consumer purchases will dwindle.

In Canada, children and parents alike tend to have strong environmental concerns. Older people, too, tend to be active green purchasers.

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