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BrandWeek has an interview with Procter & Gamble's vice president of sustainability, Len Sauers, about how the company's green philosophy lines up with consumer priorities. Excerpts:

• "Consumer research has shown that there is a very small niche of consumers (~5 10%), who are willing to accept some trade-off (e.g. higher cost, lesser performance) in order to purchase a product that claims environmental benefits. The vast majority of consumers (~50-75%) feel environmental issues are important, but are not willing to accept such trade-offs. However they will choose a product that claims environmental benefits if it meets all their other needs: performance, value, cost, etc. The rest of consumers seem indifferent to these issues at this time. It is hard to judge how these numbers will change into the future. They have remained relatively constant over the past couple of years, even with increased public attention paid to these issues."

• "P&G believes we can make the greatest contribution to environmental sustainability by developing 'sustainable innovation products.' These are products for which there has been a meaningful improvement in the environmental profile of the product relative to current products, but for which there are no trade-offs. The consumer gets it all—all the performance and value she expects and an ability to be environmentally sustainable. In this way, we are able to bring sustainability to the mainstream consumer."

• "Wal-Mart's approach of minimizing nonvalue added packaging, while demanding the same level of package performance, is very consistent with P&G's 'No Trade-Offs' approach to packaging sustainability. Overall, the costs have been relatively neutral; in fact, there have been several instances where we have both reduced costs and provided a more sustainable package to the consumer."

KC's View:
I have no doubt that Sauers is right about the fact that most consumers are unwilling to trade off higher cost or reduced performance for products with environmental benefits. And while nobody ever has gotten rich by going against consumer priorities, I would suggest that American consumers had better wake up. Because the ultimate cost of environmentally unfriendly products will be the health of the planet…