Green triggers: how can you shape a sustainable consumer?

While the climate change emergency questions consumerism, a new consuming behavior needs to be shaped, and sustainability is the key. 

On November the 7th Green Light for Business organized an event regrouping 5 guests who either detected the niche and launched sustainable businesses or encouraged this change. They all agree that changing habits is the unique and urgent way to decrease the human impact on the planet. 

We produce approximately 220 million tons of garbage each year. Most of the manufactured product we purchase are made of plastic or non-organic materials, and are neither recycled nor reused. They end into landfills if the refuse collection is well organized or pollute the oceans, forming a garbage patch between Hawaii and California 3 times as big as France.
Alex Bellini, who defined himself as an explorer, travelled a lot during his early life and realized that most of the problems are more visible at the other side of the world. In order to confront common people to the obvious consequences of their own actions, he decided to film the world’s 10 most polluted rivers through which 90% of the plastic waste flows. He wants us to face directly the ecologic crisis by reducing the “psychological distance” that make us do unconscious choices, regardless of how they affect the environment. By raising awareness, he becomes a catalyst for change. 

What are the 3 triggers that motivate sustainable choices?
The first reason that consumers mention to justify their sustainable buying is ethicsEthics, intended as a set of principles forming a moral duty and a code of conduct, implies predisposition to respect the environment and the other people.
The second one is the fear of the climate change. According to IPSOS, 70% of the world population is convinced about the climate change, 84% is worried about the future of the planet and 74% feels responsible about the waste island in the pacific ocean. Thus it drives people to buy sustainable through a fear appraisal mechanism. In advertising, a fear appraisal (or fear appeal) uses consumers' fears to motivate them to purchase a product or contribute to a cause. The consumer appraises the product in light of the fear of the consequences of not buying.
Finally, consumers are looking for quality. 77% of the Italian population centers its choice on the quality of the product. Innovation and high quality, associated to sustainable goods encourage consumers to purchase more sustainable goods. 

What are the reactions towards sustainability? 
Sustainability is perceived in different ways. It gathers environmental protection, development and balance of current resources and futures ones, economic stability and inclusion of the weakest strata of the society. The concept was, until recently, little known: in 2017, 20% of Italians were familiar with it. It doesn’t seem remarkable but in 2014, only 12% were aware of it, an increase of 65% in 4 years. It draws a good picture. 
“Sustainability” had to struggle with the unpopularity of “ecology”, which was seen as a step backward in terms of economy and wealth. Nowadays, public opinion approves sustainable firms, 68% of the world population thinks that the future most successful firms will be the ones bringing a positive change. In 2017, companies that invested in Green technologies expanded more than average ones. 
We distinguish several consumer groups. They all react differently to the concept of sustainability. On the one hand, we have “full supporters” who act in a sustainable way. They embrace a new way of consuming and are considered as already devoted to the cause. They consume green and are certainly those who launch sustainable initiatives. They are well informed, know the market and the competitors and require high quality and defined origins products to be satisfied. On the other hand, we find skepticals and indifferents. They heard about sustainability but don’t have interest in it or consider it fake news, probably because they don’t trust the firms, medias or governments. They don’t belong to the target audience.
Most importantly, we turn our eyes on the 50% of Italian consumers left. They are open to sustainability and averagely informed. They represent the main targeted audience because they are willing to improve themselves. Hence, the communication must focus on them. 

Successful business model? 
Two of our speakers propose concrete solutions. Friendly Shop is the first not alimentary shop in Italy specialized in sustainable products and zero waste. Green Koala instead is a food delivery service based in Milan. It sells daily cooked meals with seasonal products, it has no wasted quantity at the end of the day and delivers by bike. They both try to conciliate eco-friendly behaviors with profits by applying a classical marketing process, focused on tailoring certain aspects to make them fit with sustainability. First of all, they offer a valuable product or service, here qualitative goods with guaranteed origins. Then, they have identified a target audience and they found a cost-effective communication channel through which they are able to reach their target audience. Both brands have active Instagram accounts, publish about their daily work and set an example by fixing small steps to follow. By communicating well and frequently and building affinity with their followers, they create a trustworthy relationship with their potential consumers. Finally, they deliver the products they have promised in an efficient manner. They are helped by social movements such as #ZeroWaste and influencers who promote their products after testing them. Ilenia Zodiaco, who has around 50k followers on YouTube, explained to us that it brings credibility and trust towards the products she recommends within her YouTube community. 


We would like to thank our speakers:

Giammarco Cezza - Ipsos' Research Executive (https://www.ipsos.com)
Alex Bellini - Explorer who documented the Plastic Island (https://alexbellini.com) 
Ilenia Zodiaco - Youtuber and Media Expert (https://ileniazodiaco.org)
Caterina Pauletti - Founder of Friendly Shop (https://friendlyshop.it)
Marielena Fornili - Public relations for Green Koala (https://greenkoala.it)

And our moderator Esther Roca Battlori, Professor of Business Strategy and Business ethics.