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Silent move towards ‘Green Consumerism’ gains momentum in South Africa among new type of customer, PRISA delegates told

June 20, 2012


The rise of Green Consumerism was at the forefront of discussions at the PRISA ‘Power of Public Relations’ conference in Johannesburg. Angela Barter, a PRISA accredited CPRP and widely respected PR specialist currently spearheading the new and exciting world of ‘Green PR’ locally, talked about the rise of “Green Consumerism” with insights into how companies can effectively leverage their communication of their green credentials to tap into this emerging market in South Africa.


Delegates heard from Angela how a silent revolution, aptly termed "Green Consumerism" is rapidly gaining momentum, giving rise to a new breed of consumer, “who is mindful of environment-related issues and obligations, and is supportive of environmental causes to the extent of switching allegiance from one product or supplier to another even if it entails higher cost”.


This definition from is substantiated by the results of Ogilvy Earth South Africa’s online sustainability survey, released in October 2011. Of the 800 individuals within the LSM 6-10 category in Johannesburg and Cape Town, who are aged between 26 and 45 years and are the main shoppers in their household, a convincing 76% are prepared to pay more for a product or service that was ethical in its social, environmental and general business practice. And if these consumers don’t perceive a company as “green”, they won’t buy its products, even if it the product is “green”. In fact, 85% would boycott a company or brand if they suspect it is acting in an irresponsible or damaging way towards its people, its community or the environment.


This is prompting companies and their PR agencies to promote the environmental attributes and "green" claims of their products and services in an effort to capture the attention and loyalty of this new consumer market.


However, it is not a matter of simply "greenwashing" PR and marketing communications. In fact, companies and PR agencies that simply "green sheen" their communications, instead of offering their consumer market "real green", run the risk of considerable negative publicity and irreparable brand damage when "greenwashing" is exposed.

This is a dangerous gamble with a company's reputation, especially for companies that have not earned their "green" credentials. However, even companies with excellent green credentials can suffer immense brand and reputational damage as a result of inaccurate "green" claims or poorly organised or inexperienced PR efforts.


So how can companies effectively leverage their communication of their green credentials to tap into “green consumerism”? The answer is authentic, holistic and well-considered "Green PR" which transforms "empty" environmental claims into an investment - with a measurable return on investment - in brand building and reputation enhancement.


The number one rule for "Green PR" is authentic, genuine and honest communication. Solid, verifiable evidence that the company's ethics and culture are consistent with the "green" claims made is the very foundation of a "green" communications campaign. In fact, genuine, measurable green initiatives extending throughout all operations of the business are the only way to build confidence, trust and loyalty among this new breed of consumers. The company has to "walk the talk", keep its promises and ensure every environmental claim is true - and that it benefits consumers.





This information was supplied by Angela Barter (PRISA CPRP), a leading Green PR specialist & consultant, a registered GCX eco-residential auditor, highly regarded keynote speaker and founder of @ Communications Green Public Relations in South Africa.