Those who believe that men are the cause of all the world's ills, ranging from war and pestilence to leaving the toilet seat up, were given further ammunition last week after a new study revealed the male of the species is significantly less green than its female counterpart.
The YouGov poll of 500 Londoners from car club firm Zipcar confirmed that while the majority of both men and women are now taking some steps to protect the environment it is women who are going the extra mile, with 30 percent claiming to be doing as much as possible to limit their environmental impact compared to just 20 percent of men.
Moreover, almost nine out of ten women said they now recycled and turned off lights compared to less than 80 percent of men. Meanwhile, almost ten percent of men were not at all concerned about the environment compared to just two percent of women.
The findings prompted some predictable stereotyping about women's innate Earth Mother characteristics and men's over-arching selfishness.
Gloria Moss, research fellow at the University of Glamorgan, and visiting professor at the Ecole Superieure de Gestion (ESG), Paris, suggested that the findings supported separate research that showed women have a greater connection with nature and men have more individualistic priorities. "Asking people to take action for the greater good of mankind, rather than for the good of the individual, may have more appeal to women than men," she said. "This may be an additional factor in the greater interest shown by women in environmental issues as reflected in this survey."
Despite my personal view that such gender stereotyping does more harm than good for both men and women, this latest survey does indeed fit into a wide range of empirical research suggesting women are more receptive to environmental concerns and it is a trend that poses some interesting opportunities and problems to firms adopting green business models.
The most obvious lesson for green businesses is that women are likely to represent the most receptive audience for green marketing and advertising campaigns and potentially the most rewarding market for green products. Meanwhile, female executives may have more interest in, and also be better suited to, green management roles – a trend already evidenced in the relatively high proportion of women who have been appointed to CSR positions in recent years.
However, there is also an argument that any alignment of green issues as a predominantly female concern helps to perpetuate the idea in the still patriarchal world of business that the environment is a soft, fluffy issue not suitable for serious-minded men folk. It is lazy-thinking, but it remains common amongst many of the more traditional business leaders even if the only place they are now allowed to voice such opinions is on the Daily Telegraph letters page. Moreover, this misapprehension will only be reinforced by green marketing messages targeted solely at women and based on lazy male-female stereotypes.
Rather than pandering to this idea firms serious about developing green business models need to appreciate that environmental concerns transcend gender divides and as such they should push the message that green business models go far beyond saving Mother Nature and address concerns traditionally assigned to both men and women.
Perhaps then men will finally wake up and start taking environmental concerns as seriously as women.
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