Why smart companies are turning green to reach consumers

More consumers prefer environmentally-friendly products.

As consumers become conscious of their carbon footprints, green issues are at the core of their purchasing decisions. The future belongs to products made using green technology and clean energy. 

Green is the only way forward now for businesses as more and more consumers these days prefer environment-friendly products, say consumer electronics firms and branding companies.

Hendrik Verbrugghe, B2C Marketing Manager at Canon Middle East, told Emirates Business: "In Europe and in other parts of the world there is an increasing awareness among consumers about the importance of green products and many are choosing to direct their purchasing this way."

Shahzad Ahmed, CEO, Middle East, Africa and India, Gigaset Communications, added: "The consumer of today is very well aware of the products he chooses to buy. Innovative technology and eco-friendliness does not exclude each other. Even more, current and future developments integrate green aspects in their products as well as in the whole production process. So the eco-friendly products offer both, the latest technology as well as eco-friendliness."

But Dan Dimmock, senior brand strategist at brand consultancy FITCH said consumers' global migration to green electronics may well be the result of a variety of many different factors, other than simply the environmentally-conscious changing their product buying behaviour. 

"Electronic products because of the traceable path of environmental impact – from production through to packaging – is an obvious product category to 'go green' and to be held accountable, should it fall short," he said.

"The consumer electronics industry is continually evolving and, because of the increase in common device obsolescence and the subsequent availability of new and improved electronics, both the consumer and supplier have to acknowledge and take responsibility for end-of-use disposal and waste and recycle. This has led to a clear increase in consumer- led corporate accountability, and an obvious increase in the demand for new products to be green products."

According to experts, consumers in the UAE are also becoming environment conscious and prefer to buy green electronics. 

Ahmed said: "I think consumers in the UAE are becoming more environment conscious but it's not only a process in the UAE, but actually worldwide. As our sales and customer feedback shows, people today like to know what they buy and what effect it has on the environment and health."  

Verbrugghe concurred: "Environment consciousness among consumers is also showing a growing trend in the UAE but to a lesser extent in other Middle Eastern countries. Of course, governments in the Middle East together with NGOs are working together to promote environmental awareness related to electronic waste and the results on the environment. There has been a great push towards general awareness related to the environment but there is still a long way to go."

Dimmock said: "Leadership ambitions to reduce the UAE's ecological footprint have already seen many wonderful initiatives take form. This will continue to positively influence and change public and consumer buying behaviours."

But are green goods more expensive and are consumers willing to pay a little extra for them for the love of the environment? According to the industry sources it depends on the product in question. Sometimes green products require more investment initially, but generate cost savings over time. Price policies usually depend on the kind of product and the company's commitment to environment  and its consumers.

Ahmed said: "Generally speaking I think as long as the consumer is well informed about what he is paying for and why, he has a good understanding of it and is open to supporting it. It's all about being transparent and honest towards the customer."

Verbrugghe said: "Today's consumers are more environmentally aware than ever before, and companies are increasingly finding that the environmental impact of products plays an important part in consumers' purchasing decisions as they try to reduce their carbon footprints.

"Conversely, the business community's priority remains cost saving and technological efficiency. Therefore, when meeting with corporations, we make it a priority to communicate the cost saving benefits of our environmentally responsible products, whether that be energy saving or reduced expenditure on consumables such as paper or cartridges. This is the message that resonates most with businesses."

According to branding companies, today's consumers are not just concerned about the products being green, they are also concerned about how environmentally responsible the company is. So there is no room for "green-washing" anymore.

Dimmock said: "All products have an environmental impact, no matter how small. Consumers are moving further away from simply caring about the product itself. The consumer is now also concerned with the sourcing of materials, the impact of production, recycled packaging, power consumption and how to dispose of a device once it has become redundant."

Ahmed added: "It's not only the conscious customers of today who wish for eco-friendly products but also many a company's philosophy and commitment to preserving the natural resources and therefore contributing in health and sustainability.

"It is important to save the resources we are given on this planet. So it's important to keep the air, the water and the soil clean and reduce energy consumption. If for example a product is consuming too much energy it's harming the environment, for energy is still produced mainly by exploiting the planets' resources. For that it's vital to spend increasing efforts in the development of new eco-friendly technologies in a sustainable way." 

According to experts going green is the only way forward and firms today realise this. That is why more and more consumer electronics manufacturers not only try to produce green goods, they also have their environmental strategies in place so that they also walk the talk in their offices.   

Ahmed said: "I know that there is no other way in the future than committing to an eco-friendly policy and thus serve the environment as well as the whole society. This affects all product segments globally."

Verbrugghe agreed: "Yes, I think that increasingly this is what we will see. Where possible, all manufacturers should adopt and implement the concept of green technology and find ways to minimise energy consumption and recycle responsibly."

But what about their own products? Are they just doing lip service or are they aware of their responsibility to the environment too?

Gigaset Communications says it realises the importance of using green technology and that is why they ensure that all steps in the production and disposal of their products are environmentally responsible and resource-conserving.

Similarly Canon is committed to environmental stewardship. So, in order to maximise resource efficiency, gain greater value from fewer raw materials and thus reduce environmental impact, the company works on a produce-use-recycle product lifecycle.

How they walk the talk in their offices

Canon: The company introduced environmental accounting way back in 1983 and continually revises its vision for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Their environmental policy is aligned with the global policy and it sets out the actions they take to manage and mitigate their impact on the environment, while developing their business sustainably; managing procurement sustainably; promoting recycling; engaging staff and operating within all relevant laws and guidelines. Canon Middle East also makes all efforts at a local level to protect the environment and for that reason they are ISO 14001 certified. 

Gigaset Communications: All their employees show a eco-sensitive behaviour and commitment and the company requires eco-sensitive behaviour from its partners and suppliers.

They integrate an environmental protection concept for the entire product lifecycle. They received the TÜV certification as of September 2007 for their environmental management system.