During these tough economic times, businesses are looking for more ways to attract new customers, while at the same time, consumers are becoming more concerned about whether products and services are green.
On July 23, Santa Monica College (SMC) and the City of Santa Monica presented a Green Business Opportunity Roundtable to help address these challenges, at the Santa Monica Main Library. Kelton Research’s CEO, Tom Bernthal, stated that a lot of this recession is psychological and has caused consumer spending to fall off as much as 70 percent. People now need permission to spend. His company’s research has also shown that “7 out of 10 Americans say that the green movement is not the trendy thing to do but is genuinely worth it.” Therefore “empowering emotional messages” that make products appear more responsible and green will encourage consumer spending to come back.
Bernthal also stressed, “Americans with an income under $75,000 are likely to say going green is important” so it’s not just an issue for the wealthy as some believe. Most companies want to appeal to the mainstream middle but they have to realize “if they put two products next to each other and they are the same price, people will choose the green one but a lot of consumers still won’t if it’s more expensive.”
Chris Paine from Paine PR noted that we have reached a saturation point with the green movement so companies have to have the right message in front of people to inspire the “mainstream middle to change their behavior to get to a lower impact, low carbon society. Eighty-five to ninety percent of college graduates say they want to work for a company that is more environmentally responsible.” Massive companies like Wal-Mart and Proctor and Gamble have spent “billions of dollars around the world over the last 3 to 4 years on trying to reorganize and rewire their corporate structure to minimize their environmental impact to attract new customers, attract new talent or new shareholder resolutions.”
The City of Santa Monica’s Environmental Outreach Coordinator Andrew Basmajian stated the elements of sustainability are economic, environmental and social and all elements of sustainability need someone to oversee the uses of resources. Usually, that falls into the hands of government. “The main goal of local government in terms of sustainability is making sure that infrastructure is available and well maintained.” In Santa Monica, a Sustainable City Plan was begun in 1992. Since 2004, the City has been issuing a Sustainable City Report Card which looks at the City’s progress in terms of resource conservation, environmental and public health, transportation, economic development, open space and land use, housing, community education and civic participation and human dignity.
Also participating in the roundtable was Jonathan Krausche, a Senior Project Manager of Sustainability and Management with Westfield, LLC.