Take these two scenarios:
A medical specialist creates an online profile of his qualifications and experience- we are going digital after all- for potential patients, but he does not include his patient mortality rate? Who would? A potential patient in the comfort of her home scrolls through the internet and comes across the medic. Fast forward on the operating table they die, the family sues the medic and the lawyer discovers that the specialist had withheld the mortality data.
You are eating at a restaurant while enjoying that sumptuous meal, you see a rat chasing a roach across the floor, a couple of flies having the time of their life and at a corner, a pile of leftovers. As you are leaving the restaurant, you realize that the restaurant did not visibly post information about its health code compliance and violations.
As consumers and citizens in the internet era, we have access to more information than ever when making purchases and other choices that affect our health, safety, and well-being. On websites such as TripAdvisor, we can sift through hundreds of reviews of a single restaurant, hotels and some like Jumia on the items for sale; and organizations now take upon themselves to provide a bevvy of data about their services and products they sell online.
Theoretically, marketers could take advantage of this information glut to withhold facts and figures they’d prefer we didn’t see. This makes it easy for consumers to fall prey to ‘greenwashing.’ For instance, the surge could be motivated to hide higher-than-average mortality rates that could drive away patients. The restaurant might conceal information on hygiene ratings that could repulse customers.
Communication between customers and businesses promotes brand growth especially for businesses that incorporate sustainability in their business strategy. Sadly, most businesses have realized that consumers are more interested in brands incorporating sustainability and have studied how the “game” of communication and disclosure plays. Consumers in several instances interpret missing information from what they know or have heard about a certain type of product from a brand.
Does a 5-star rating determine quality?
The answer is a simple no. There is a surplus of trust, especially when it comes to businesses that address sustainability matters in their strategy. Few customers care about the process or how a company is going green so long as it is going green and there are stories on the same. Few care about the information being withheld from them by their brands or service providers.
Consumers should be concerned about what is sold to them. For instance, most assume that ‘black’ soap automatically translates to all things organic without asking for more information. The same way brands lie about gong green and have a few green initiatives yet that is not the real practice. Consumers are then left to deal with the effects of ‘greenwashing.’
A successful business is one that puts the needs of the consumer at heart, not one that focuses on making money. Sustainability has been a must-have for most of these that most businesses feel pressured to incorporate sustainability to have a competitive edge. Consumers should raise questions on any missing information on the product description or any information that does not add up on a product. This will hold businesses accountable for their ‘going green’ journey and at the same time ensure they have had quality for goods they pay for.
Never before have theory and practice been wider apart. When it comes to practising and not just preaching sustainability, most companies struggle and most flounder in developing and implementing a sustainable business model. Many feel the importance to make the business go green but cannot transform occur, they leave out the information most crucial to consumers. Consumers should be couscous and help make these businesses accountable for their actions.