Beyond Purchase: Helping Consumers Close The Loop

With Earth Day just weeks away, our 2013 Cone Communications Green Gap Trend Tracker reveals that the environment is top-of-mind for consumers – and not just at store shelves but at home as well, signaling a critical call-to-action for marketers.

A record-high 71 percent of Americans consider the environment when they shop, up from 66 percent in 2008. And, nine out of every ten take that responsibility beyond the register and feel an obligation to properly use and dispose of products. But good intentions aren’t translating to action. A significantly smaller percent say they often use (30%) or dispose (42%) products in a way that fulfills the intended environmental benefit.


What’s preventing consumers from responsible use and disposal of environmental products? It all comes down to resources and know-how:

  • 33% cited not having the adequate resources, such as disposal bins and community access, as the primary reason for not disposing or using products as intended
  • 20% stated they simply do not know how to do so

With 85 percent of Americans asking companies to educate them on proper usage and disposal, the gap between consumer intention and behavior can be bridged by companies. The Green Gap shows that consumers are looking on-pack and online for information about what to do with “green” products. Companies need to clearly communicate not only the intended benefit of such products, but also how consumers can effectively play a role in their responsible lifecycle.  

And while this may seem simple enough, the reality is that there are leaders and laggards. Let’s take a look:

  • Getting It Right: Lush Cosmetics Black Pot Recycling Program
    While Lush already uses 100 percent recycled plastic in its “black pots,” the company includes on-pack messages to encourage consumers to do their part to further close the loop. For every five clean “black pots” a customer returns, Lush gives a Fresh Face Wash as a reward. The black pots are then sent back to the main factory in Poole, U.K., and recycled into new pots. A recycling win, this program provides an easy in-store recycling option, while also incentivizing consumers through a tangible reward.  
  • Room for Improvement: Alkaline Batteries
    Alkaline batteries have always presented end-of-life confusion for consumers. Although mercury has been removed from batteries so they no longer pose a significant threat to waste streams, batteries are better off recycled – but exactly how can be tricky. According to Duracell, “Alkaline batteries can be safely disposed of with normal household waste,” explaining that, “Proven cost-effective and environmentally safe recycling processes are not yet universally available for alkaline batteries.” The company recommends consumers contact local government for information on disposal practices, effectively taking Duracell out of the recycling equation. Companies like Duracell have the opportunity to become an advocate and conduit for responsible product disposal, but to-date, significant progress has yet to be made.

Americans are primed for environmental communications, and they’re showing a willingness to do their part. It’s now up to companies to become leaders in closing the loop. Is your company ready to become a partner?


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