If you’re not green, you may soon be red-faced.

If you’re not green, you may soon be red-faced.

There are a variety of sources of behavioral influence that guide action and decision-making. These sources generally fall into three spheres: personal, social and structural. In some of our past Shelton Pulse studies, we’ve spent a great deal of time examining the personal sphere of influence by determining our respondents’ self-concept, worldviews and motivation. In this year’s Green Living Pulse, we’ve turned our attention to the social sphere of influence, or how those around us influence our behavior.

We learned that acting in an unsustainable way isn’t very embarrassing yet, but it will soon reach the tipping point. Thanks to years of growth, messaging and new products, the idea of sustainability has finally permeated the American conscience. Not only are they searching for and buying more green products than ever, but more than half of Americans are beginning to define sustainable behaviors as the socially accepted norm.

Granted, being caught with your thermostat set at 73 degrees isn’t as embarrassing as getting a citation for drunk driving – yet. But if you apply the Tipping Point rule postulated by author Malcolm Gladwell, which says that ideas grow explosively once 20% of the population adopts them, then our data clearly show that acting in ways that aren’t eco-friendly will soon be considered embarrassing for greater numbers of people.

This is important because sustainability will no longer be considered a fringe activity limited to a small group of hard-core activists or early adopters. Any lingering stigma around being green will continue to fade as it becomes more socially acceptable to larger and larger chunks of the mainstream population. Sustainable habits will be spread through social contagion because there are simply more idea carriers now. This trend also signals that sustainability has become a true habit for many consumers – and a critical part of some people’s self-image. It means that some people are holding themselves accountable for their own sustainable actions because failing to act in accordance with their values would violate their self-concept.

To see what’s next, we look to other large-scale social issues, such as the decades-long anti-smoking campaign. Once considered a mark of “coolness,” smoking has dwindled in popularity: fewer than 20% of American adults are now smokers, down from 37% in 1970. Smoking is generally considered to be socially unacceptable thanks to years of messaging, public bans and social contagion. As more people quit smoking, they also influenced people up to three degrees of separation to quit. Now you see small bands of smokers gathering in distant corners of parking lots, unwelcome in their building, perhaps even in violation of their company’s policy.

Will this be the reality for sustainability one day? If the trend continues, we can certainly see that it’s a distinct possibility. Maybe one day we’ll all be saying, “If you’re not green, you’re not cool.”

About the Author

Karen Barnes

Karen is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Suzanne Shelton

President and CEO

Suzanne is the voice and the vision of Shelton Group. Drawing on her extensive experience in energy and the environment – and 25+ years in the marketing and advertising industry – Suzanne provides high-level strategic insights for our clients and guidance for our research and creative departments. She regularly speaks at conferences around the country, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and the International Builders’ Show, and serves as a guest columnist for publications like Fast Company, Green Builder and GreenBiz.com.

Susannah Enkema

VP Research & Insights

Susannah directs our research team and plays a key role in extracting the nuggets of information that pave the way for recommended marketing strategies and creative approaches. Susannah has nearly two decades of market research and strategy experience, including her role as president of SE Consulting, where she led the services for the likes of DIY Network and the makers of GORE-TEX®.

Laila Waggoner

VP Client Engagement

Laila leads our client engagement process, overseeing activities from both a strategic and a tactical level to ensure our work generates desired results – and clients’ satisfaction. She brings 25+ years of marketing leadership experience to her client relationships, with particular expertise in the homebuilding and remodeling industries as well as member-driven organizations, such as the Vinyl Siding Institute and Plastics Pipe Institute. Before joining Shelton Group, she led strategic marketing teams for Owens Corning’s insulation business.

Matt Brass

VP Creative

Matt steers the creative department in concepting, designing and producing campaigns. He ensures sound strategy and deep insights inform everything his team develops, and works closely with the accounts department to ensure copy and designs will meet our clients’ goals. As a designer and filmmaker himself, he’s also a principal contributor to all of Shelton’s in-house photography and videography work.

Glen L. Vesser III

VP Finance and Administration

Glen manages Shelton Group’s finances and administration, ensuring our internal systems run smoothly so we can provide exceptional client service in a seamless and timely manner. Glen’s financial and administrative expertise has been shaped by decades of experience in a variety of industries, including public accounting, media distribution and health care.

Mike Beamer

VP Business Development

Mike joined our team to help provide strategic vision and foster our agency’s growth by overseeing new business leads and managing agency marketing and website content. He arrived in Knoxville steeped in energy efficiency and renewables – he previously led client service for an agency division in Boston dedicated to marketing communications strategy and branding for B2B and B2C clients in that space.