A healthy respect for profits, sorry, I mean the environment

It seems as though everyone is trying to be greener than Kermit these days. The threat of climate change is pressuring Governments to take action, spurred on by the voting public (well, in some cases, as long as it doesn’t involve too much taxation. I mean, it’s not as if increasing petrol prices could make things any better is it?).

Retailers have cottoned on to a new way of squeezing more money out of us, sorry, I mean, are very concerned about the environment too. They all have corporate social responsibility policies these days, including a good chunk on how they are reducing packaging, encouraging sustainable farming and saving the world. 

Take Sainsbury’s for example, which has a whole web page called “respect for the environment“, set out in friendly font (i.e. in capital letters that look like they have been written by a 5-year-old). Of course retailers don’t really care about the environment; they care about profits. It’s just that these days, consumers care about the environment, and would prefer to think that they aren’t destroying it by going for their weekly shop. So it’s profitable for shops to position themselves as environmentally friendly.

It’s difficult for consumers to actually verify whether the claims that shops make are true or not, so retailers can probably get away with massaging the truth somewhat. But it’s hard to perpetually hide the profit-maximising motive.

Take Sainsbury’s for example, which sells Kenco decaffeinated coffee in “eco-refill” packs. I know, it’s a good start, isn’t it? But on a per-gram basis, it’s cheaper to buy the apparently less environmentally friendly glass jars than the eco-refill packs.

But perhaps it’s expensive to produce eco-refill packs although they are more environmentally friendly? Unlikely. Particularly as for caffeinated coffee, the eco-refill packs are cheaper.

So we know these aren’t purely cost-reflective prices. Of course, Sainsbury’s has probably done its consumer research. And I’m guessing that its research suggested that people who drink decaffeinated coffee tend to care more about the environment and are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly products. Hence the high price of decaffeinated eco-refill packs.

Oh Sainsbury’s, you are even more transparent than most…

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