Consumers & Professional Purchasers

The customer, whether they are professional organisational buyers of final consumers, are the ultimate focus for marketing efforts and they have the final say in the success of marketers’ products and strategies. Over the last 15 years there has been considerable debate about “green consumers” in terms of whether they exist, whether their concerns are really reflected by their consumption behaviour, and whether they would be willing to pay a green premium for more sustainable products. Anecdotal examples demonstrate that consumers will discriminate in favour of “good” products and companies, and may turn their backs on those they perceive to be “bad”. However, their responses are often unpredictable and inconsistent and they are unlikely to change their consumption behaviour if asked to make significant compromises on cost, quality or convenience. Several typologies have been produced to try and classify consumers according to the depth and consistency of the influence that environmental and social concerns have on their buying behaviour.

Professional purchasers are perhaps a more promising target for marketers of more sustainable products since greener and more ethical purchasing can be an easy way for businesses and public sector organisations to demonstrate their sustainability credentials. However, within such organisations pressure to use purchasing as a lever to promote sustainability often has to battle with the traditional pressure to make purchasing as economically efficient as possible. Companies adopting sustainability management principles such as ISO14001 or the Global Reporting Initiative guidelines may even seek to pass such practices and principles on to their suppliers as well as patronising them.
The most comprehensive academic piece of work on sustainability and consumers comes from Professor Tim Jackson’s definitive review “Motivating Sustainable Consumption”
A report on “Consumer Power” looking at the relationship between consumers, the environment and companies from Rand Corporation, a non-profit institution that provides research and analysis related to policy.
UK Government report on sustainable production and consumption.
UNEP page on sustainable consumption
UNEP international survey on youth attitudes to consumption and sustainability
International Institute for Sustainable Development’s overview on sustainable production and consumption.
This is a link to the European Round Table on Sustainable Production and Consumption.
Article by Jacquelyn Ottman on targeting green consumers.
A survey on 'Green Behaviour - Sustainable Trends, Sustainable Lives?'
This project is concerned with the behaviour of consumers and producers who are willing to pay more to protect the environment.
An article on green consumerism - "Can green consumerism stop the ecological crisis".
An describing basic lessons about green consumerism; written as a response to a Wall Street Journal article "Green' Pitch isn't Selling My Products."
The Green Consumer Guide
Highlights information on consumer campaigns and issues covering a variety of topics, including the environment.
This course includes information on 'green' consumerism, and an assessment of consumer attitudes and buying behaviour related to environmental issues.
Eco-efficient purchasing and factors to consider
A guide to green products and services.
Details of current UK consumer boycotts.
This links to an article which asks, ‘whatever happened to green consumers?’.
Consumers International, dedicated to promoting and protecting consumers' rights.
Resources and directories for ethical purchasing.
Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) is a US programme that encourages and assists Executive agencies in the purchasing of environmentally preferable products an services.
A report on suppliers’ attitudes towards greening the supply chain.
Shows Starbucks pressurising suppliers to improve environmental performance.
McDonald's pressurising farmers over treatment of hens.
Details from PPRC on supply chain management for environmental improvement.
Information to help U.S. state and local governments and other large purchasers
incorporate environmental considerations into their purchasing.
An association of 66 environmental, consumer, and human rights groups from
25 countries that supports ecolabeling and seeks to ensure that consumers
have the information they need to purchase more sustainable products.
Comprehensive source of information on green purchasing. Database includes
green contract language and specifications, voluntary standards and
guidelines, and other practical information.
A network that aims to bring together governments, businesses, and other
purchasers to promote sustainable innovation and competitiveness along the
entire supply chain.
NGO coalition that aims to strengthen environmental and social provisions
in EU procurement policies, including consideration of environmental,
health, and labour impacts.
A New York-based consulting firm that helps Fortune 500 companies and top
government agencies green their procurement and operations.
An independent organization that certifies and promotes green products and
services and works with manufacturers, industry, purchasing groups, and
governments to green the production and purchasing chain.
A research organization that provides information on ways to reduce the
environmental impacts of the U.S. economy through improved product design
and greener purchasing.
Offers a wide range of information on green purchasing in Europe. Includes
links to the Buy-It-Green Network of municipal purchasers as well as to
success stories, recommendations, and ongoing projects.
An association of some 2,700 organizations, including corporations,
government authorities, and environmental and consumer groups,
promoting green purchasing in Japan.
Information about state efforts to buy green products, including useful
guides and reports as well as contracts for purchasing recycled products
and other goods.
Aims to build North American markets for renewable energy and other green
products and to facilitate green trade through ecolabeling and green
A source of information on coordinating and promoting green public
purchasing in industrial countries.
A cooperative of U.S. businesses and public institutions using combined
purchasing power to encourage suppliers to offer affordable recycled paper and
other products.
Offers information and links relating to UN and other global efforts to promote sustainable


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