Sustainability means different things to different people. Asked to identify what the term means to them, consumers most frequently respond “the ability to last over time” (76%) and “the ability to support oneself.” Sustainability is also strongly associated with environmental concerns, whereby consumers are being challenged to develop and express an “eco-consciousness” in their daily habits and purchases. Thus, nearly half of consumers associate sustainability with conserving natural resources and with recycling.
But using “eco-conscious” or “green” as synonymous with sustainability unduly limits the term. “Green” falls short as a description for the variety of social, economic and environmental issues that real-world individuals believe are important to sustaining themselves, their communities, and society at large. Adoption of sustainable products mirrors the health and wellness progression that The Hartman Group has previously reported, in which consumers first consider the impacts of things in the body, followed by on the body, and finally around the body.
As consumers become more educated about the environmental, social, and economic implications of their shopping habits, their health and wellness motivations dovetail with societal concerns, such that four zones of sustainability become relevant to purchasing choices:
Household cleaning products with a sustainable side have only recently begun to enter the American mainstream. Conversations with consumers about the household cleaning category, including a range of laundry products, household cleaners and polishes, reveal a shift in the way consumers think about why and how they clean their home.
Formerly, the act of cleaning was a form of “germ warfare,” and entailed a combative relationship between consumers and their environment. Recently, however, more and more consumers talk about the idea of working with nature, not against it, to naturally restore balance to their home environment. As with the food and beverage and personal care categories, consumers have become increasingly aware of the potentially harmful effects of chemical-based cleaners on personal health as well as environmental safety. This shift in perspective has implications for the personal benefits consumers look for as well as the role of the environmental and social zones of sustainability in the marketing of products in the household cleaners category.
Read an excerpt from this report below.Series Methodology
This report series was jointly produced by The Hartman Group and Packaged Facts, and is based on The Hartman Group’s 2009 multi-category study, Sustainability: The Rise of Consumer Responsibility. In addition, Packaged Facts provides an update of consumer attitudes and spending based on a proprietary online poll conducted in February 2009 and on Experian Simmons surveys fielded from November 2008 to June 2009.
The Hartman Group Quantitative and Qualitative Methods
This report draws primarily on an online survey of 1,856 U.S. adults conducted in September 2008 by The Hartman Group to understand consumer attitudes and behaviors related to sustainability. The sample was drawn from a panel of adult U.S. consumers with Internet access, and was designed to provide good representation of the U.S. population according to geographic area, age, gender, race and income. The Hartman Group also conducted qualitative research on sustainability in three markets (Seattle, Dallas, and Columbus) during August 2008, using consumer ethnography with fifty consumers as the cornerstone of qualitative research. Ethnographic interviews included one-on-one conversations at an individual’s home or at a specific retail setting, as well as group interviews also at consumers’ homes. These engagements garnered more than 100 hours of in-depth, revelatory consumer discussion.
Consumers and Sustainability: Household Cleaners
September 01, 2009
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