It has to become personal

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The message that came through at the G2-hosted seminar, Sustainability AndThe Shopper, was clear: consumer behaviour will not change until it becomes personal. G2’s chairman and CEO, Joe Celia, tackled the thorny issue of the consumer’s somewhat ambiguous relationship with environmental issues in his introduction to the seminar.

Celia quoted the example of the ecological movement of the Sixties which took off strongly only to peter out. Opposed to this, the anti-smoking movement “has taken on dimensions that we would have found hard to believe 25 years ago. The big difference is personal relevance.’

The consumer has to struggle with terms such as “biodivesity’ and “sustainability’ which Henley Centre’s global executive chairman Crawford Hollingworthy described as “big fat terms with no personal relevance’. Meanwhile Wal-Mart regards sustainability as a competitive framework for innovation, said Tyler Elm, formerly a Wal-Mart sustainability expert and now heading his own company TJ Elm & Associates. “The next phase of the company’s journey will involve the phasing out of traditional detergents and cleaning products in favour of concentraed versions. That means less lastic, less water being transported and more shelf space – and a yearly saving of some $91m in labour costs alone. Wal-Mart would not descrie itself as a “green’ company, but they are focused on the value chain and very willing to learn.’

Social responsibility can be built into brands, according to to Annemieke Win, Anchor-Consult, formerly a Kraft sustainability expert. She maintained that a product can resonate with consumers depending on where and how a product is made and how it is marketed. “But digging deeper, how do you market chocolate to an obese population with a rising incidence of diabetes?’

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