Environmentally friendly cleaning products have surged in popularity in recent years, with consumer demand for such goods fueling huge growth in smaller production companies and attracting the attention of multinationals (Watson, 2019). The root cause of this trend is not entirely clear, however. The available evidence appears to suggest that general consumer awareness of (and consequent concern about) environmental issues is the primary factor in the discussion about the increase in demand for environmentally friendly cleaning products, rather than perception of literal environmental factors on a direct, individual basis.
While practical environmental issues are a substantive threat, it is not clear that they have worsened sufficiently in recent years to explain the rapid increase in the uptake of these goods. This is neatly illustrated by the case of water pollution, an issue which actually became less severe in the US during the late 20th century (Andreen and Jones, 2008).
Awareness of these problems, on the other hand, has spiked in recent times (Leiserowitz et. al, 2017), and this change is demonstrably correlated to the increase in demand for environmentally friendly products (Kennell, 2017). This trend in consumer awareness can be attributed to a number of factors, including the rise of social media as an advertising and campaigning tool (Moss, 2019), the effectiveness of green branding (Harrison, 2014), and an increase in support for environmentally focused political parties and groups globally (Sandbu, 2019). The relationship of each of these forces to the shift towards sustainable cleaning products will be examined in detail later.
Before that, however, let’s look at some concrete examples of the increased demand for eco-friendly cleaning products. Method is a market leader in the area of green home cleaning; between its establishment as a start-up in 2001 and its acquisition by Ecover in 2012, it had amassed over USD 200 million in combined sales (Wong, 2012).
The takeover of Seventh Generation by Unilever, another player in the sustainable cleaning market, tells a similar story of financial success. While the terms of this deal were not disclosed, Unilever’s press release on the acquisition cited Seventh Generation’s turnover of over USD 200 million and its high level of compounded annual growth over the preceding ten years (Unilever, 2016). Clearly, environmental sustainability has become a strong selling point for household cleaning goods.
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2) Harrison, K. (2014, April 22) How Four Eco Brands Are Using Social Media Marketing Effectively. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/kateharrison/2014/04/22/how-four-eco-brands-are-using-social-media-marketing-effectively/
3) Kennell, B. (2017, December 6). Environmental Concern Empowers the People. HuffPost. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/environmental-concern-emp_b_8105580?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly9rZWVwLmdvb2dsZS5jb20vdS8wLw&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAEHibdDRnXuZfcHU85Oh5SUE-2HkDym8UT5_Em_YWoqjl_Pf6QELCdv0dB0hq-QjaHDbzJCmAauTFhbA_a7zLVr2qgBz-hJvWDDiQGzDKcE6ygtKjh4oqmNeGMODI5iR_fb3Se5M63DIBONTXAEYuRVtDpk64CE8c6XarstUqCua
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5) Moss, S. (2019, January 25). How social media is inspiring children to save the natural world. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/25/social-media-inspiring-children-to-save-natural-world
6) Sandbu, M. (2019, June 5). Europe’s Green surge matters more than the rise of the far right. Financial Times. Retrieved from https://www.ft.com/content/8a654ac4-86b2-11e9-97ea-05ac2431f453
7) Unilever Website. (2016, September 9). Unilever to acquire Seventh Generation, Inc.. Unilever. Retrieved from https://www.unilever.com/news/press-releases/2016/Unilever-to-acquire-Seventh-Generation-Inc.html
8) Watson, I. (2019, June 12).As the green market gets crowded, Ecover is doubling down on brand innovation . The Drum. Retrieved from: https://www.thedrum.com/news/2019/06/12/the-green-market-gets-crowded-ecover-doubling-down-brand-innovation
9) Wong, K. (2012, September 4). Green cleaning company Method acquired by Ecover. Green Biz. Retrieved from https://www.greenbiz.com/news/2012/09/04/method-acquired-by-ecover