Eco-Friendly versus Customer Friendly

16 Oct 2008 Eco-Friendly versus Customer Friendly

Foam peanuts.

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It would be a beautiful and greener world if these two goals could be met as one and the same, but unfortunately life and being green are not that simple. So as a business person, serving a predominantly green customer base, which way do you go?

Survey after survey indicates consumers are indeed willing to give up some degree of convenience in exchange for greener packaging but are they willing to forgo safety, security, freshness, or even product cleanliness? In most cases the answer is no, especially if there is a good option available. There is indeed a limit to how much most consumers are willing to sacrifice for the environment.

At the risk of further angering packing peanut manufacturers, a perfect example of this dilemma is foam peanuts, shells, or any other shape of this controversial product. I recently met with a customer who proudly proclaimed he was using an eco-friendly foam peanut product that would degrade in water. In over thirty years I have never won an argument with a customer so there was no way I would debate the merits of the product, or the science behind it. I am sure his void fill product will indeed dissolve if exposed to water, and I have no idea on the content of the watery goo that is sure to result in the process or where it winds up in the environment.

No, my concern was more basic than that. My immediate question was, do customers like it? I thought about times when I excitedly opened a box containing a product I had ordered over the internet or phone. I also recalled the immediate disappointment I felt the moment I opened the package and discovered the shipper had opted to use peanuts for void fill. No matter how careful you are, you are certain to wind up with those crumbly, static filled packaging products everywhere including your home or office, clothes, and of course, on the product you eagerly waited for.

Here is the main point I am attempting to drive home: if the shipper decided to use “eco-friendly” peanuts, it did not lessen my irritation or disappointment one bit. Peanuts are an inconvenience and no one I know likes them, unless of course they make or sell them. Why in the name of greenness, in this highly competitive world, would anyone be willing to risk angering and possibly losing a customer? It makes no sense to me, especially when there are so many options available today that are every bit as eco-friendly and not nearly as irritating.