Published in 1989 ‘Green Consumer’s Supermarket Shopping Guide’ was written by John Elkington and myself – Julia Hailes. It was launched on our ‘Green Shopping Day’.
When I was researching The Green Consumer Guide, none of the supermarkets had a clue about ‘green products’. When I asked them what environmental things they were doing they started telling me about the additives in their food – or lack of them. Less than a year later I was researching for the Supermarket Guide and it was a totally different story. Every supermarket I talked to had started employing an environmental advisor. The reason for this was simple. Green consumerism resonated. Green consumers were their customers and they wanted to appeal to them….
Ozone friendly aerosols. Phosphate-free detergents. Mercury free batteries. Unleaded petrol. Acid rain, the Greenhouse Effect. Organic produce. And recycling to the moon and back. These were all messages that had got through loud and clear.
In our book we were keen to show case the supermarkets who were doing good and leading the way. But we also named the laggards. Actually, we had a league table with five stars for the best and none for the worst. This was very effective and led to full page advertisements in the newspapers promoting how green they were from green and greener to greenest.
Supermarkets have continued to be on the front line of green consumer campaigns. You can choose more sustainable fish, organic food is widely available, there’s lots of information about where products come from – and one issue that still gets people going is over-packaging, in particular the excessive use of plastics.
We may have started the green consumer journey, but there’s a very long way to go and so much more that needs doing. It’s time for the supermarkets to be far more radical in their approach, rather than tinkering around the edges.