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The green economy: delivering the goods

According to a new report, sustainable goods and services in the UK represent a market opportunity of £200billion, while companies adopting sustainable practices themselves can stand to gain £100billion in productivity savings.

So businesses should be able to see that there’s a lot in it for them if they offer a greater proportion of goods with more ethics at their heart – which is great for them and for reducing carbon emissions more generally. They’ll also be well aware that the ‘green economy’ has seen a sizeable bounce since the start of the financial crisis, where it’s fair to say others have not. Clean technology and recycling are notable winners.

But what about the consumer end of things? It goes without saying that all this can’t be just a good deal for business, and not so much for the masses. Ordinary people have been hit hardest by the financial downturn, and can’t be expected to drive the UK’s carbon reduction if the cost to do so is prohibitive. That’s the idea behind Green Deal and ECO, but sustainability-meets-thrift is also being considered in the industry, it seems.

Supermarket giant Asda is working with the University of Leeds to conduct what amounts to an absolutely enormous focus group on affordable green products. The aim is to assist a sustainable lifestyle shift in the average customer. Dr William Young, Director of Business and Organisations for Sustainable Societies (BOSS) research group at the university, explains:

We’re looking at what will work for the mainstream customer, and not necessarily those who are already committed to a ‘deep green’ lifestyle. This means working within people’s busy lives, desires and needs, so that reducing food waste for example becomes a habit and a way to reduce household food costs.

“We’ll be pioneering research methods and tools that will be significantly important in the move to a low carbon society.”

Advice coupled with the right buying choices when they’re needed is crucial. Then of course there’s the importance of consumers knowing they’re getting high quality. This can mean anything from formal labelling and accreditation to making sure those dealing with customers have had proper training in sustainability matters.

The Energy Saving Trust is very focused on improving trust in the markets for green goods, but this could just as easily be referred to as ‘quality control’. Our certification services and data analysis have been developed to specifically address the quality issue as this market continues to grow.

Potential profits and market knowledge can push things forward – but a commitment to getting the detail right is the only way long-term gains can be made.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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