Is the push for sustainability necessarily coming from the consumers?
I don’t think so. The section of consumers that do demand eco-friendly, recycled, hybrid products is very minute and in a way the rich with surplus disposable incomes who to begin with are quite lavish in their lifetyles who like to be seen with the right stuff (green), shopping in the right places.
Today I saw a bag by ‘Keen’ – I like the quality of the products that this company makes- shoes, apparel etc. On the bag was a huge bold label claiming that by buying this bag, you’ll be helping some x tonnes of waste from reaching into the landfill, as this is made out re-claimed/recycled fibre. Sure, I care for the environment, but I just wouldn’t buy it – it was expensive, heavy, with odd label design. The point is I may really admire the company of its sustainability efforts (Patagonia, Starbucks etc) but I may not like the product…I’d rather prefer Tully’s coffee and the company may be doing nothing in environmental terms. Secondly, the point of purchase is most often more erratically emotionally inclined than logical.
I was listening to a podcast of Muhtar Kent, CEO, Coca Cola, at the Coppenhagen meet. He said – “The surveys always show that consumers are ready for the green products and even ready to pay a premium on them…But in reality that has always turned out to be false”.
The main reason why corporations must pursue Sustainable Business Developemt is that it must make a business case…just like pursuing any other project. If there is profitability to be had in sustainability, companies will invariably go for it, irrespective of any demands or legislations (though, they’re desirable). Having said that, it is much simpler for a single product line company to be sustainable than a company with multiple-product lines across the industry.