January 17th: DAY 5 – the EcoConsumer

This morning I attended an Educational Forum on Credibly Communicating Sustainability Initiatives at the University of Waterloo put together by Regional Carbon Initiative. Not only did this forum offer vegetarian and local friendly food but another type of food… food for thought. The two speakers, Scott McDougall (Sustainability and Environmental Leader, Brentwood SRI Inc.) and David Robinson (Regional Sustainability and Community Coordinator, Mountain Equipment Co-op) both had an extensive amount of experience and the information that both presented, unexpectedly flowed together nicely.  The main takeaway points for me in relation to this blog, my carbon footprint, veganism and eating locally were: probity and the market place.  Robinson shared many factors that make MEC unique and sustainable, such as its own internet system for the staff, their green building program, advocating to conserve conservations and third party audits in order to prove transparency and accountability. McDougall on the other hand spoke more towards the market, business and social enterprise. He shared one of the most interesting diagrams I have seen in which he and a partner created to represent the bell curve of eco-consumers, ranging from ‘SCUM to RAW NUTS’ each having a witty explanation of a 5 category green consumers. He also talked about his research (Greendex 2012 – national geographic and globescan) on the 7 sins of ‘greenwashing’. And what they found out in their methodology was the 95% of companies have performed at least one of these sins (youtube clip below). Lastly, he mentioned that we are facing two trends right now in eco-products in the market 1. Consumers are asking more questions 2. Consumers are getting overwhelmed with all the questions.

So, what are consumers (us) really looking for? Not necessarily data, but to believe what the organization, business, co-op etc, is saying, when they are saying it. Organizations can reach this through changing behaviors, not beliefs.

Check out the CNN clip on the research back in 2009.What Scott is trying to say here is that companies have become “greener” but are not necessarily green.

On a similar note, check out this interesting article of a vision for a zero-carbon BC by Marc Lee: http://behindthenumbers.ca/2012/12/14/marcs-letter-from-2040/

 

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