A series of studies by researchers from the University of Oregon and the University of Cincinnati has uncovered evidence that brand colour shapes consumer opinions about sustainable businesses.

Lead researcher and professor of marketing Aparna Sundar said: “What we’re finding is that colour biases the way consumers make ethical judgements. Of course green is one of those colours, but blue is also one of those colours that consumers associate with eco-friendliness.”

As part of the study shoppers were presented with a fictitious logo that was portrayed in a range of colours. The study found that a blue shade similar to Walmart’s logo and green were perceived as more environmentally conscious than other common logo colours such as red.

Consumers were also presented with a fake retailer DAVY which was shown acting out various ‘morally ambiguous’ scenarios such as spraying excess water on produce. Consumers were asked whether these actions were ethical and environmentally sustainable, with the results showing that the blue and green versions of the retailer were seen as an ethical company compared to the red version.

“Interestingly, blue is ‘greener’ than green in terms of conveying an impression of eco-friendliness, despite the frequent use of the word green to convey that idea,” co-author James Kellaris of UC’s marketing department said.

Despite the benefits that came with blue and green brandings, consumers were also more critical of retailers with these sustainably coloured logos, with more demand placed on the retailer to deliver sustainable results and practices as a result of its brand portrayal.

Sustainable Leaders

At edie’s very own Sustainable Leaders Forum last month representatives from PZ Cussons, AkzoNobel and Heineken advised delegates that gaining consumer trust has become critical for them to care about sustainability.

They argued that while placing certified sustainable credentials on packaging shows that a product is sustainable, consumers are actually much more interested in a sustainable ethos and message from the company.

A poll at the start of the Forum revealed that 78% of delegates in attendance believed eco labels on products fail to spark behaviour change among consumers.

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie