Affluent See Sustainability as Positive Trend, Yet Hesitate to Purchase Sustainable Goods

The Dwell Insights Group, part of the architecture and design publisher Dwell, did a study on “The New Face of Affluence.” While data from the study was designed to tell the story of design, it also told a story of sustainability.

While the word affluence conjures up a lavish life of luxury, there has recently been a shift towards quiet affluence.

The mission of the DIG is, “to identify track contextualize market trends, behaviors, and attitudes for marketers and trend watchers.” In that spirit, lets look at the study in the context of sustainability.  What are the successes and challenges of sustainability in the space of the affluent?

The Positive Sustainability Trend
The good news is in the positive trend.  Sustainability is a trend on the minds of
the affluent.  Among the top 5 positive trends:

  1. Environmental responsibility, alternative energy, and conservation
  2. Localism and community
  3. Simplification and slowing down
  4. Food Sourcing
  5. Globalism

These positive trends are great news.  All of the above positively impact the sustainability of people and the planet, in one form or another. We hope this trend continues.

Hesitation Towards Purchasing Sustainable Goods
Here comes the not-so-good news.  Despite the belief in the importance of protecting the environment, the affluent experience hesitation when faced with the opportunity to buy a sustainable product.

For some, it was the perceived lack of environmentally responsible brands and products.  For others it was the higher cost of eco-friendly goods.  And yet for some, ironically, environmental responsibility was said not to be important at all when it came to actually making purchases.

Moving Forward Sustainably
So what lessons can we learn from this study to help us in our quest towards a more sustainable planet?  How can we settle the difference between what the affluent say and what they will pay for?

The big lesson is that sustainability alone will not sell the brand or product to the affluent.  What the affluent buy and choose to have a relationship with needs to reflect the inner mixing of their spectrum of values, not just one value.  Likewise, a brand or product must also reflect the affluent and their values.

What do you think?  How can we build not just awareness but actually conscious purchase of sustainable goods?   How can a relationship be made with the sustainable businesses and the affluent?

Jonathan Mariano is an MBA candidate with the Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, CA. His interests include the convergence between lean & green and pursuing free-market based sustainable solutions.

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