Going Green: How Does Gen Y Perceive Your ‘Green Initiative’


To be successful in any industry, it’s vital to know what’s trending. Clothing stores strive to sustain the hottest styles. Car manufacturers gauge the most prevailing preferences of the populace. Hollywood even caters to the caprices of their critics.

However, there is now a powerful trend that is influencing every industry. In fact, it’s more than a trend: it’s a movement, and it’s

Going Green!

Companies of every shape, every size, in every industry are launching their green campaigns

What exactly is motivating them to take the “leap of green?”  Do they really love the planet that much? Are they politically driven? Or are they endeavoring to appeal to a certain generation?

With Generation Y reaching adulthood and more and more seeking homes of their own, there will be a heavy impact on your business. To effectively draw them in, you need to know what matters to them. In “An Industry Responds to Generation Y Demands to Go Green”, Liz Nottingham, HR Director of Starcom Mediavest, supports the notion that green matters greatly to many members of Gen Y:

 “Generation Y has grown up in an age where climate change has become a fundamental issue that has a big impact on their lives, now and in the future. They are looking to employers to show that they are addressing their concerns over pollution, waste, energy and so on. Advertisers have built their successes on responding to trends and the demands of consumers; they also have to respond to the demands of their employees to stay competitive and retain the best staff. Going green matters.”

Why It Matters

Generation Y is a culture of young people who want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Promoting a cause is fashionable. Making a difference is important. Why are so many Gen Y members jumping on the green band-wagon? Going Green is a tangible banner they can rally beneath, believing they can effect change. Consequently, not only their efforts, but their commerce, will be directed towards furthering the cause.

Equipped with over 200 billion dollars in buying power per year, this potent consumer group will refrain from purchasing anything that will harm the environment. They claim to be socially responsible, and think companies should be, too.  Thus, the decision to corporately go green is spreading like wildfire.

What’s It Gonna Take?

Going Green encompasses a broad spectrum of actions. On one end of the spectrum, you can “go green” by simply recycling aluminum cans and conserving electricity. On the other end of the spectrum, “going green” can entail a more complex shift; transitioning to electric vehicles and replacing entire business systems. A 2008 survey of over 2,100 college students conducted by Bentley Marketing Professor, Pierre Berthon, revealed that “green” has even more meanings. To Gen Y being ‘green’ amounts to an ethical imperative towards people, animals and the planet,” he stated. Apparently, there is an abundance of ways to “go green”. Nevertheless, your green campaign could all be in vain depending on how your customers perceive you.

Perception Is Everything

Is it possible that perception carries more weight than reality?  The aforementioned survey by Professor Pierre Berthon divulged three green stereotypes Generation Y gives companies:

  • The Good – those perceived as green
  • The Bad – those who are perceived as un-green
  • The Ugly – those with split personalities; perceived as green by some and un-green by others.

A poll was taken to discover what brands Generation Y perceived as being the most and least green. Here’s the common consensus [Brand (Reason)]:

The ‘Most Green’ Brands

  • Toyota (Hybrid cars)
  • Honda (Fuel efficient cars)
  • Whole Foods (Organic foods)

The ‘Least Green’ Brands:

  • Exxon Mobil (Pollution and profits)
  • Hummer (Gas guzzler)
  • Ford (SUVs and trucks)

Surprisingly, the brands students thought were the least green were actually more environmentally friendly than those they selected as most green!

It really is all in the perception.

You could be the most socially responsible business on the block, but unless customers instantly recognize your efforts, you won’t attract them. Thus, when you decide to take the “leap of green,” promote it! Advertise it! Whether helping humanity, wildlife, or the environment, engage your customers in conversations about your endeavors to make a difference. They will appreciate it because they care.

Let’s not forget that perception without reality is like a false store-front – sooner or later, they’ll enter the store, and your long-lasting success will depend on how credible your efforts really are and the added value the consumer will receive.

Taking It to the Next Level

Remember, knowing what’s trending is vital to your company. Are you up with the current movement? Maybe it’s time for you to tackle the next level of success and take the Leap of Green!

Check out The New Rules of Green Marketing, by Jacquelyn A. Ottman, which introduces companies to the new rules of green marketing and how going green impacts the bottom line – people, profits and planet. The author applies over 20 years of green marketing lessons, educating companies on how to respond to the needs of a rapidly evolving green customer. The data she provides offers insight into how each generation is experiencing and practicing green and how to prepare your marketing message for each group. A must read if you are considering the “green leap”, looking for some proven green marketing strategies, or just want to learn more.

How green are you? Tell us about your leap of green!