Thursday, September 3, 2009


Have you been too stressed lately to worry about putting out the recycling bin? Has ‘global warming’ been replaced by ‘cooler spending’ as your favourite topic of dinner party repartee?

The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) is busy working on a new Environmental Claims Advertising and Marketing Code for release later this year. The new Code will help ensure that advertisers and marketers develop and maintain rigorous standards when making environmental claims in advertising and marketing communications.

With the hullabaloo about the global financial crisis over the last year, it feels like there hasn’t been the same amount of coverage or interest in ‘greenwashing’ or environmental issues, even with the emissions trading scheme debate. Has the general public been so absorbed in its own economic concerns that they have put environmental concerns on the top shelf for now? And if so, do we still need a new ‘Green Code’?

Starcom’s weekly social tracker, PeoplePulse provides a good indication of peoples’ thoughts on this issue. PeoplePulse launched earlier this year as an ongoing research methodology to trend the way people are feeling about a wide range of social issues, lifestyle trends and financial decision making.

It turns out most Australians do not believe being green is just a fad, with only 12.5 per cent agreeing with this statement in the month of July. Only a quarter of us believe there is too much talk about green these days.

The majority of us are still concerned about the environment despite the GFC and, interestingly, regional Aussies are more concerned than their metro city cousins, with 54.3 per cent claiming they were concerned about the environment, compared with 47.7per cent in the metropolitan cities.

This concern is translating into action with 53.9per cent of metro Aussies claiming to make a conscious effort to be environmentally friendly, and 57.6per cent making an effort in regional Australia.

Importantly for marketers with ‘green credentials’, a good deal of Australians prefer to buy environmentally sustainable brands, 41.7per cent and 43.5per cent in metro versus regional respectively. Even more importantly, more than a third of Australians would like to learn more about environmental issues, and over a third say they would pay more for products that are genuinely environmentally friendly. This is particularly compelling given this same survey identified the cost of living as the highest ranking social issue at the moment. Clearly many consumers are willing to trade off other luxuries to support a sustainable future.

These significant numbers provide ample justification of the need for the Environmental Claims Advertising and Marketing Code being developed by my colleagues at the AANA, which I’m sure is a relief given the amount of work that’s already gone into its development.

More generally PeoplePulse is gradually picking up increased positive sentiment, with 60per cent of Australians selecting positive versus negative mood statements in the last two weeks of July. This compares with levels of 51 to 55per cent for most of the weeks from March through to June this year. There is, however, some evidence of continued concern.

As referenced earlier, the cost of living continues to be the largest issue, and after trending down in early June it has started to creep up again in late June and July, co-relating with concern about rising interest rates which is now the third largest issue having been as low as sixth earlier this year.

Irrespective of overall sentiment, it appears that concern for the well-being of our planet remains an important issue for most Australians, and that’s both a comforting thought and a marketing opportunity for products with genuine green credentials.

John Sintras is CEO of Starcom Mediavest and a Board Director of the Australian Association of National Advertisers.

Written by John Sintras and published in 04.09.09

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