DuPont Study Questions What it Means to be Green

Joel Makower

In a study released Dec. 5, DuPont revealed that a growing number of Chinese consumers not only understand, but prefer green products. The statistics showed that a staggering 70% of those surveyed expressed confidence in the claims of brands marked as green. These findings reflect the potential for brands with sustainable practices to find success in world’s largest consumer market.
 
In order to sift through the wealth of information found in the study, “DuPont China Green Living Survey: Consumer Awareness and Adoption of Biobased Products,” Cotton International spoke with Joel Makower, the executive editor of Greenbiz.com. Having been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, Forbes, and more as the voice of the green industry, Makower focused a critical eye on what cotton industry professionals can do to tap into this ever-growing green trend.

Makower pointed out that, “Unfortunately, no set of standards has to be met in order for a company to label themselves as green.” He explains that while many people say they care about the environment and want to buy the right thing, they simply may not know what that means, and thus may be hesitant to invest. In order to remedy this, the DuPont study listed product characteristics and surveyed based on consumer agreement that these attributes make it acceptable for the product to be labeled green.

The results showed the following:

Characteristic

Percentage Who Agree It Is Definitely, or Likely, Green

Contains recycled material 

84%

Made from renewable materials

84%

Use less energy to produce

84%

Requires less energy to use at home

76%

Requires less water to use at home

74%

Use less water to produce

73%

 
One reason for the less-than-perfect marks across the board, Makower explains, could be that many find the qualifications of a green product difficult to quantify. For example, if a brand can say it uses 60 watts of energy vs. another product’s 80 watts, or costs you $10 per year instead of $50, that is a measurable difference that consumers can understand. In addition, Makower says that consumers are more likely to take out their wallets for green products that go directly onto their body, such as apparel – a statistic that many cotton industry professionals will feel relieved to hear.

With Canadians and Americans trusting less in green products, though, at 5% less and 10% less respectively, one has to wonder why. One reason Makower points out is the fact that in China, the environment is much more of an issue than it is in most of North America.

“Waste is an issue, water is an issue, energy is an issue, and air pollution is very much an issue there,” he explains. “Studies have shown Chinese children are much more likely to be born with asthma and other respiratory issues, so it is clear that their current practices are, in many regards, not sustainable. When people have these things right in front of them, and it becomes a concern – be it asthma or polluted water – it gets them thinking about other issues.

“As much as people care about the environment,” Makower continues, “and I believe they do, they want to know what’s in it for me and my family. If it saves money, improves my health, lessens health risks, it’s good. “

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