Green Shopping Trends Tapped in Studies, Launch of E-Commerce Platform

Green Shopping Trends Tapped in Studies, Launch of E-Commerce Platform

Eco-friendly shopping trends have inspired two studies of U.S. buying habits and are fueling eBay's launch of a new online marketplace that's aimed at channeling purchasing power with consumers' interests in environmental and social responsibility.

News of the studies and the online initiative came Wednesday as The Body Shop told of research showing that consumers' expectations for corporate ethics and behavior continue to grow despite the tough economic climate, the Canadian market research firm ICOM said that graying shoppers are the leading purchasers of green household products, and eBay went live with its venture called WorldofGood.com.

In New York, The Body Shop released the findings of its survey of 9,500 consumers in the United States and Canada this past July. Seventy-six percent of the U.S. consumers said that company ethics and behavior form the basis for more purchasing choices than had been the case five years ago.  The study also found that 70 percent of respondents identified quality of goods and brand trust as their purchasing criteria; 39 percent cited corporate ethical reputation as buying criteria and 38 percent said price and value are their drivers.

In Toronto, ICOM said its survey of 6,036 people in the U.S. in March and April showed that people 55 and older purchase the most green products for the home, contrary to beliefs that environmentally conscious buying is largely youth driven. The study indicated that the demographic is about twice as likely to buy eco-friendly products than the average American. Findings also showed that almost 62 percent of all those queried purchase household green products.

"That's fantastic," Christina Clem, associate state director of communications for AARP California, told GreenBiz. "We put out our own study in December 2007 that said pretty much the same thing."

In its nationwide survey of 30,000 people, the organization formerly known as the American Association for Retired Persons found that respondents cited "a sense of responsibility to give back to society and make the world a better place" as the leading reason for buying eco-friendly goods, Clem said.

"That's because as the older you get, the more you think about the legacy you leave behind," said Clem. "I think what will happen is that eventually they (green products) won't be a niche market. It will become an expectation among all consumers that all products be environmentally friendly."

That hope is among the principles behind the new online marketplace created by e-commerce giant eBay, based in San Jose, Calif, in collaboration with the startup World of Good Inc. of Emeryville, which is also based in Northern California's Bay Area.

"The megatrend we see is that a growing number of consumers want to make good choices and want simpler ways to do that while making a social impact," Robert Chatwani, the general manager of eBay's WorldofGood.com, told GreenBiz.

Increasingly, consumers also want "transparency into that social impact" so that when they consider their purchasing options they have information about how products address and affect environmental and social concerns, Chatwani said.

The new site features products in 15 categories that include food, home and garden goods, clothing and jewelry. Clicking on an item brings up a page that shows what the product is made from, where it was made and information about the sellers, producers and their eco-social goals.

The product page also includes tags that detail and verify the item's effects on the people who made it, their communities and the environment. These dimensions, which the company calls Goodprint and Trustology, are intended demonstrate how the new marketplace is "steeped in an ethical supply chain," Chatwani said.

He compared the guiding vision for WorldofGood to business models that call for minimizing harm.

"We want to flip that model on its head and maximize the good rather than minimizing the harm," Chatwani said.

The site went live shortly after midnight and by 8 a.m. Wednesday experienced tens of thousands of page views, he said.

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