Study: Consumers May Doubt the Quality of Green Products

Quality of Green Products

Some entrepreneurs might assume that with environmental concerns top of mind, consumers will always respond positively to green products when available. Not so, a recent study finds.

Consumers don’t want companies to focus on being green if it means their products will suffer in some other way. And according to research from the Yale School of Management, there’s a universal assumption that intentionally green products are usually lacking in other ways.

George Newman, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management and lead author of the research explained in an email to NBC News:

“People often have limited information, so they tend to make guesses about how companies allocate their resources in developing a product. In our research, we find that the default assumption seems to be that improving the green dimensions seems to take away from other benefits.”

The school’s experiments involved subjects evaluating fictitious brands of things like dish soap and drain cleaner. When the consumers were told that the products were designed to be eco-friendly, they showed little interest in buying them. But they weren’t put off if they learned that the products just happened to be eco-friendly and weren’t created for that specific purpose.

The takeaway is simple. For businesses that create green products, it’s necessary to take some time to better educate consumers about your process. Since these assumptions about green products tend to come from a lack of understanding about how companies use their resources, you need to make it very clear.

If you create products with the intention of being eco-friendly, you may need to alert customers that this doesn’t impact their quality or performance. And if you create effective products that just happen to be green, make that part of it clear to customers as well.

You may even want to rethink promoting the green aspect of your products altogether. Simply focus on the quality or whatever else sets them apart. And include the green aspect of your product as just a secondary feature in your marketing.

There are certainly customers who will seek out your products simply because they are good for the environment, and that’s fine. But for many customers, simply promoting your product as green will not grow sales.

In fact, it may even hurt them unless you can demonstrate that your product has other qualities too.

Dishes Photo via Shutterstock


Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

6 Reactions
  1. As for my parents, they don’t buy ‘green’ products thinking that it is always more expensive – making it seem that they are getting less for their money.

    • In some cases, they may very well be getting less for their money, but it’s doing more for the planet, which is money well spent.

      Maybe you could gently introduce them to a green product – buy one for them as a gift, something they already use that has a green equivalent.

    • I’ve noticed a lot of green products that seem to cost more than similar products. I usually think it’s worth it if I can afford it, but I can understand why that might deter some people.

  2. Hmm. Interesting. I’m definitely in the minority. I’ve never thought that about green products. If I want to buy green washing-up liquid, it’s normally with the intention to do my bit, not much else.

    • I’m the same. I’ve never really doubted the quality of green products, but I’ve noticed that they tend to cost a little more. I usually try to buy them anyway, but I can understand where people are coming from.