Can the Fortune 500 save us?

Our 2010 Energy Pulse survey, which will be released on Friday, reveals that the consumers who are the sweet-spot target for energy efficiency (they have the desire and the income to invest in EE products) claim to have been plucked.  They claim they’ve purchased many of the heavy-lifting products (appliances, HVAC systems) and that they’ve done all the little stuff (CFL’s, turning off lights).  So they’re done.  And all of us marketers will be hard pressed to get them to do more (especially since most of them haven’t seen the utility bill savings they expected).

So what do we do about the fact that we’re not done? About the fact that we keep plugging stuff in and that our energy consumption as a nation is expected to still grow by about 10% in the next 10 years (and that we’re still trying to figure out how to build the electricity generation or launch the Smart Grid programs that will allow us to manage that demand)?

This is where manufacturers come in.  Imagine a world where consumers simply couldn’t buy an inefficient or non-green product.  Thus, whether they intended to or not, they’d consume less energy and buy products that were better for the environment.  Walmart started down this path a couple of years ago when they made the decision to only stock concentrated formulas of liquid laundry detergent (thus filling their shelves with smaller packages).  The win here is that even consumers who don’t care about going green are now buying a greener version of the products they like, and Walmart gets to put even more products on the shelf (smaller packaging = more products).

AT&T entered the fray earlier this year with its Zero model charger.  You can connect any USB-powered device to it and, once the device is charged, it automatically stops sucking energy from the socket.  We see in our focus groups over and over and over that Americans — even somewhat environmentally aware ones — are clueless that all the things they have plugged in draw energy even if the device is charged or not in use.  This solves that problem, without the consumer having to do anything.  Now, unlike the Walmart example, AT&T is charging $12 for the device, so its market is limited to the small percentage of consumers who are aware of the vampire power problem.  But, one day, we suspect they’ll make this a standard offering with any product they sell…and consumers will begin saving energy whether they intended to or not.

So, yes, by simply limiting consumer’s options to products that are energy efficient and environmentally friendly, the Fortune 500 can, in fact, save us.  From ourselves.

About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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