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Retailers Top Greenest Brands List

by Robert Vosburgh
Jun 09, 2011

U.S.consumers participating in the seventh annual Green Brands study named Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s two of the 10 best in the country. Whole Foods was ranked second (behind leader Seventh Generation), while TJ’s came in fifth place.

Other companies on the list include Starbucks, Burt’s Bees, Dove, SC Johnson and Tom’s of Maine. As one can see, most of the list is made of brands found in supermarkets and reflects a pretty high level of awareness among consumers shopping in this channel.

(In case you’re wondering, Apple, Walt Disney and Microsoft — which tied with Starbucks — rounded out the list.)

The complete study, compiled annually by several global consulting firms and companies, polled more than 9,000 people in eight countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Brazil, India, Germany, France and Australia. If there’s a common thread stitching together each group, it’s that consumers universally believe that companies emphasizing sustainability are "born green”; that is, consumers believe that sustainability is rooted in corporate DNA.

According to researchers, it’s the first time in the poll’s history that respondents have made authenticity such an important factor.

Just looking at the names of the top companies suggests the categories and products those polled are most likely to purchase. The biggest buy-in is in household, grocery and personal care. The pollsters categorized this as an “In Me, On Me, Around Me” mentality. Given all the public awareness of toxins and pesticides and ingredients in recent years, it would seem that consumers are deeply devoted to making smart purchases.

Yet, the reality is that most U.S. shoppers do not plan on buying any more green products than they did last year. There's a 4-point drop predicted in the purchase of sustainable household products next year.

Why? Price remains the biggest barrier to adoption, researchers found, with 62% making that complaint. It was followed by too limited a selection (44%) and difficulty in finding (44%).

But how to explain the impressive 8-point increase in green technology purchases? Or the 6-point hike in auto products?

"Consumers have a good understanding of how green choices in personal care, food and household products directly affect their families, and they are now seeing benefits like costs savings that attract them to higher-cost items like cars and technology," said Russ Meyer, chief strategy officer of Landor Associates, one of the firms involved.

One-half of the eight countries profiled stated governments should make companies recycle product packaging. The most important concern in the United States is that companies should be required to disclose all materials and ingredients in products. Before we go embarking on new purchases, perhaps we should make sure we clean up the messes we’re leaving behind.