Greening the UK market

3:45 PM, 14 April 2011

Consumer perceptions in UK markets are becoming more discerning, reports BusinessNZ’s

Phil O’Reilly.

Just back from working sessions with UK business groups, Phil says British customers are developing a more sophisticated appreciation of sustainability.

Consumers are becoming sensitive to sustainable business practice and also more realistic about how it’s achieved, he says.

“For example, a couple of years ago, consumers were talking about food miles, but that’s hardly a topic of conversation any more. Food miles was a very simplistic idea, and is now largely discarded. “

“Now the focus is more on integrity of business production processes – things like product lifecycle management, auditing and accountability.”

Increasingly, consumers want to buy products that are handled in a sustainable manner at every step in the production process.

This is a challenge for New Zealand producers, but is positive and achievable.

“It’s very encouraging to see that change being led by consumers. Interestingly, there’s not much talk about green growth or green jobs. Instead, the notion gaining currency is greening growth and greening jobs.”

It’s an important shift, Phil says, because of the danger of labelling anything simply ‘green’.

The danger is that it leads to a misunderstanding.

It seems to imply there’s some new category of growth, with a new separate profit stream just waiting to be tapped, where the normal business realities of costs, technology, capital, skills, and so on don’t apply.

 

The label ‘green jobs’ has the same problem. It implies there is a subset of new, fabulous jobs, fundamentally different from normal jobs, funded from some new income stream just waiting to be tapped.

It’s an illusory thought, and doesn’t much help our journey towards a more sustainable future.

“It’s far better to focus on greening jobs and growth, seeking to make every existing job and business operation more sustainable.”

We all need to be in the business of greening everything we do, Phil says - greening every job, every business, every piece of infrastructure.

Market research undertaken by New Zealand Trade & Enterprise in London reveals much about consumer thinking.

“Knowing what our customers in the UK are saying about New Zealand products and how they feel about sustainability is very valuable.

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