Beyond offering energy efficient products, what's your company doing to appeal to the green building movement?

John G. Swanson
February 20, 2008
THE TALK...

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Survey Results for 02/20/2008:

Beyond offering energy efficient products, what's your company doing to appeal to the green building movement?

We don't see a need to change our methods or message.

48%

We're emphasizing existing and implementing new "green" practices.

29%

We're still determining what needs to be done.

14%

We're emphasizing existing business practices.

6%

We're implementing new environmentally friendly practices.

3%


Last week, we reported on the International Builders’ Show, where all signs suggested that the green building movement was gaining momentum. The National Association of Home Builders celebrated “Green Day,” and launched its new National Green Building Guidelines. Green messages were evident in the booths and talking points of window and door manufacturers exhibiting at the show.

Several manufacturers made the comment that “green is not a fad.” At a press conference at the event, Elizabeth Souders of Jeld-Wen suggested it won’t be too long before being green is part of the “price of admission” to be a player in the market. Given such talk, I guess I was a bit surprised to see—at least based on this week’s poll—that many window and door companies—almost half—are not changing their ways as green goes mainstream.

Okay, that interpretation is perhaps a bit harsh. Our poll question specifically asked “Beyond offering energy efficient products, what’s your company doing in response to the green building movement?” I suspect some industry people still see it as a fad; or simply think, “We have long-lasting, energy-efficient products; that and price is all the customer really cares about.” Not that their companies are environmentally-unfriendly in how they operate, they just don’t expect to get a lot of mileage out of a Web page outlining a “Commitment to Sustainability.”

Of course, more than half of our respondents indicated the green building movement has brought or will bring change to their companies. About 30 percent of our respondents suggest their companies are now marketing the “greenness” of their existing practices and looking to implement more green practices. About 14 percent apparently think they need to do something, but haven’t decided exactly what it is yet. A small percentage of respondents suggest their companies are starting to implement new green practices, but may not be promoting them as such yet.

About 6 percent of this week’s respondents reported that their companies might not be changing what they’re doing, but they are adapting their marketing to appeal to green demands. That was a common theme among window and door manufacturers at IBS. Several put the emphasis on “what we’ve done all along.”

Getting back to the nearly half that “see no need to change,” while I’m surprised the percentage was that high, I can understand some of the reasons why companies may not be anxious to jump on the green bandwagon. My guess is they don’t see “greenness” as a potential differentiator for their company in the market. Buyers will continue to be more focused on issues of product performance, price and service.

Yes, there are market segments where green methods and messages are critical. Some customers will demand an FSC versus an SFI label on their wood products—and they’ll even be willing to pay for it. Some customers may not look for a specific attribute, but the perceived greenness of one potential supplier versus another will factor into their decision. I suspect some of these buyers would even be willing to pay more.

The skeptics out there, however, see a builder of tract homes—even those designed to achieve LEED certification—as unwilling to pay more to get windows from a company that’s somehow defined itself as greener. For that builder, it will come down to the performance numbers needed and the price.

Summing up what I see as some of the skepticism out there, one dealer wrote me saying, “I think that green is good,” but, he added, “The trick is to be affordable.”

Given the realities of all the different market segments and customer types, the mixed level of enthusiasm for green isn’t really that big a surprise.

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