Environmentally Friendly: Says Who?
James M. Borneman, Editor In Chief
Is it the Al Gore effect? Are stress- and anxiety-ridden Americans now adding a global warming crisis to their list of daily concerns? With all of the turmoil in the world and $100 barrels of oil, can a consumer feel good for a moment by making a perceived environmentally friendly purchase? Does a green choice help the consumer’s consumption rush feel a little less guilty and actually make shopping feel like it has a positive environmental impact?
Based on marketing trends, it sure would appear so. Rarely does a press release come to Textile World these days that doesn’t have a going-green twist. Marketing is a terrific thing, and heaven knows textiles can always use a new angle, but how long will US consumers buy in to green, and are they willing to pay for green peace-of-mind?
In reality, according to Consumers Union of the US Inc., the US Federal Trade Commission and the International Standards Organization consider the claims “green” and “ environmentally friendly” to be “too vague to be meaningful to consumers.” Their evaluation of environmentally friendly as a label goes on to say that the phrase is a general claim with no government or official definition. The Consumers Union reports: “Environmentally friendly is a general claim that implies that the product or packaging has some kind of environmental benefit or that it causes no harm to the environment. There is currently no standard definition for the term. Unless otherwise specified, there is no organization independently certifying this claim. The producer or manufacturer decides whether to use the claim and is not free from its own self-interest.”
To be fair, there are companies making a genuine effort, and TW has featured many companies through the years that have turned to environmentally sensitive manufacturing for many of the right reasons. Typically, it just makes sense. With $100 barrels of oil,
it is going to make even more sense to conserve, recycle and reduce waste. Textile technology also is supporting the charge, particularly in energy and water consumption — two components that challenge manufacturers globally.
There is no doubt that environmentally concerned consumers and manufacturers are a good thing. As certification agencies get a foothold, and as consumers start to get information that substantiates claims, green and environmentally friendly products will strengthen as a consumer niche. They will offer another point of differentiation — just what good marketers look for — and may increase the value-added effect of green contents and green manufacturing.
In order to make sure the consumer doesn’t burn out on green, marketers need to convert vague into value by communicating the real information about how their product is different. The soft and fuzzy feeling of green is nice, but when consumers understand what green means in that product, they will, more importantly, be able to make a smart choice as well. New terms, standards, seals and certifications will bring opportunity for sincere suppliers committed to green.
Green is good, and these days, green is good business.