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Consumers Suffering 'Greenwashing Washout,' Says NMI

The Natural Marketing Institute said yesterday that the corporate green movement is in need of a new level of sophistication and clarity, as consumers increasingly find it hard to distinguish those companies that are truly sincere about their commitment from those apparently participating only opportunistically in the movement.

The Harleysville, Pa.-based market research firm said its observations expand on key findings from its 2007 LOHAS Consumer Trends Database. LOHAS, the acronym for Lifestyles Of Health And Sustainability, describes an integrated, rapidly growing market for goods and services that appeal to consumers who have a meaningful sense of environmental and social responsibility, and incorporate those values into their purchase decisions.

“While numerous companies are attempting to gain credibility as good corporate citizens, consumers are overwhelmed by the myriad of communications and are, at times, unable to distinguish the legitimacy,” said NMI’s managing partner Steve French. “Some companies who are doing relatively little with respect to CSR are perceived as just as responsible as those spending millions of dollars incorporating sustainability into their businesses.”

Many consumers remain skeptical of the sincerity of corporate action, and are looking for credible, third-party proof of the claims companies make, NMI said. This lack of credibility will continue to cause confusion and blurring in consumers minds, and if it goes unchecked, could undermine the LOHAS revolution currently underway, it noted. Simultaneously, CSR messaging must be more meaningful, memorable, and relevant to consumers to have an impact.
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