The role of consumers in green marketing and greenwashing

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Authors: Tihon Cvijić and Danko Kalkan

In order for green marketing to be adequately applied, the role of consumers is crucial – their critical review of the promoted product characteristics. With the development of the concept of ecological products, the notion of a green consumer also appears. This type of consumer is the group of customers who, when buying a product or using a service, also consider environmental issues. According to research by Roper Starch Worldwide, on a sample of more than 2,000 people from the United States, consumers are divided into the following five groups: [1]

True-Blue Greens – take great care of the environment and actively want to achieve positive change. They consist of three subgroups:

  1. passionate guardians of the planet,
  2. health fanatics,
  3. animal lovers.

In their case, they are four times more likely to boycott products or organizations that are not responsible for the environment.

Greenback Greens – They are not politically active, but will probably buy a more environmentally friendly product.
Sprouts – consumers who believe in caring for the environment in theory, but not in practice. They rarely buy green products, but it is easy to persuade them to go in any direction.
Grousers – skeptical and uneducated about environmental protection and cynical about positive change. They think that green products are overestimated and worse.
Brown (Basic Browns / Apathetics – burdened with everyday problems and not caring about social problems and the environment.

This study was done over a period of almost 20 years, which can be seen in the following graph.

Graph: Division of consumers according to the level of care for environmental protection[2]

tipovi potrošača

As can be seen in the graph, there are changes in the number of consumers who consider environmental issues more when shopping. More precisely, the share of the so-called True-Blue Greens in the period 1990-2007. year grows from 11% to as much as 30%. At the same time, the share of so-called Brown (Basic Browns / Apathetic) decreases from 28% to 18%. These trends can be explained by a higher level of awareness of global problems of climate change, environmental pollution and issues of sustainable development.

However, the problem with almost all consumer research is that it does not take into account the question of the real level of knowledge about environmental problems, and it is difficult to conclude whether all consumers who say they care about these challenges really have a sufficient level of knowledge. on the basis of which they would make a quality decision. This problem is also shown by a survey in which 37% of respondents said they were quite concerned about environmental problems, while only 25% of the same respondents thought they had a high level of knowledge about these problems. [3]

It is in this disparity between the level of knowledge and the declared desire for less negative impact, on the one hand, and the imposition of false and wrong messages by companies, on the other hand, that space for greenwashing is created.


[1]Zrinka Tolušić, Ena Dumančić, Karla Bogdan, „Društveno odgovorno poslovanje i zeleni marketing“, Agroeconomia Croatica 4, br. 1 (2014): 25-31., accessed 21.11.2020.)

[2] Joel Makower, „Strategies for the Green Economy – Opportunities and Challenges in the New World of Business“, 2009. pg. 41

[3] Ibid.

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