Australia’s green economy is worth $400 billion – here’s how to be part of it

Robert Stockdill

Robert Stockdill

The market opportunity for green brands in Australia is estimated to be worth more than $400 billion* annually, according to Tom Ferrier, the co-founder and CEO of Sydney-based sustainability startup Greener

“We know the green economy is not a fad – it is the future. Entire economies and trillions of dollars are now moving carbon neutral,” says Ferrier.

Backing up his claims is research from Forbes concluding that 88 per cent of consumers want brands to help them live sustainably. Australians generally believe businesses must play some role in stopping or addressing climate change, and the vast majority say they also want to reduce their own personal carbon footprint – but many are unsure where to start.  

Greener is an app launching in the new year that makes it easier for consumers to identify brands that are on the sustainability journey. It then goes one step further by calculating the carbon emissions of what consumers buy from these brands and automatically turns the purchase carbon neutral. It does this by partnering with organisations that plant carbon-consuming forests. The startup is bringing businesses and consumers together to help end climate change.  

“What is most exciting about the green economy is the impact it can have. If we can get consumers and brands working together, we could help remove the equivalent of 58 million cars off the road each year – that’s three times the amount of cars on Australian roads right now,” says Ferrier. 

During a webinar this month, Greener invited leading Australian organisations, businesses and academics to share their passion for a greener world, highlighting practical and achievable ways for businesses to get greener. The common theme among participating brands like tea retailer T2, sustainable living store Blaek, and global beauty giant L’Oreal is a desire to share ideas and build awareness of green initiatives to help companies and consumers alike to make a difference.   

Professor Michael Hiscox, an Australian based in Boston, founded Harvard University’s Sustainability, Transparency, Accountability Research Lab, (STAR Lab) and has been working with large Australian and international brands over the past decade to help them supercharge their sustainability efforts.  

Hiscox says there is “a wealth of evidence” proving that consumers are aligning their personal values with those of the brands they buy, and this is especially apparent when it comes to their concerns about climate change. 

Moreover, while a lot of research reports what consumers say they ‘would’ do, STAR Lab focuses instead on actual consumer behaviour. “We look at what people actually do, not what they say they will do.”

One trial with an apparel brand showed a 7-per-cent lift in sales of women’s denim when promoting a green initiative compared to just referencing style. In another, adding a Fair Trade certification badge to packets of coffee in a grocery chain drove a 10-per-cent increase in sales with no resistance to a 10-per-cent price premium. 

But Hiscox explains that green consumers need a sense that companies understand and share their values and that they are aligned with them. 

“To build that trust, companies must be prepared to invest in independent verification or certification. That is what distinguishes a genuine green company from a marketing campaign.” 

Andrew Davies, CEO of certification company BCorp’s B-Lab Australia, New Zealand agrees, but he has a stark warning for companies who might be just seeking to profit from the booming green economy. 

“If you’re looking for a fast bump in sales from strapping on a trust mark, then don’t bother.”

He says certification is primarily about holding yourself and your company to account and examining all aspects of the business to design it for a positive impact. 

“That absolutely helps differentiate a business. It also helps build staff engagement and retention.”

T2 Global Brand Director Amy Smith is convinced the green economy is going to become the economy of the future. “If you look at the Gen Zs, and the millennials, there is a complete shift: they understand the area of personal responsibility when it comes to climate change. They are not just looking at someone else to solve that problem, but asking what they can do, and how. 

“This is where Greener comes in. We are really excited about Greener because the idea of personal accountability – and managing it in a way that is fun – is going to be really critical for the world to reach sustainability targets. We can’t just rely on governments and companies,” says Smith. 

If businesses need any further encouragement to commit to becoming part of the green economy, there is another drawcard: it makes financial sense. 

Hiscox says STAR Lab’s work with supermarkets, apparel retailers and airlines in the US and Australia have proven that customers are prepared to pay a premium for a product that is proven to have a lesser environmental impact than a competitor. 

Furthermore, there is evidence of what Hiscox describes as “a quality halo effect”: people tend to think that if something is made with good environmental standards in mind it is also high quality.

“So if you bundle the messaging and promote all the good features together – instead of just talking about the sustainability ones – and focus on it being a better product, that tends to be more appealing.” 

Another study, by McKinsey, concludes that the next frontier of loyalty is a coalition of different brands coming together with a unified and meaningful customer value proposition. 

“At Greener, we don’t know what could be more meaningful for the customer than helping end climate change,” concludes Ferrier. 

“It’s not about a handful of organisations doing ‘green’ perfectly – it’s about thousands of businesses doing green imperfectly.”

Greener ensures companies and brands on the app are legitimately committed to climate-friendly initiatives by recognising more than 70 international standards or accreditations that allow companies to prove their green credentials. Greener calls this its ‘green brand framework’. If a brand has one of these credentials, they are better for the planet and consumers can be confident they are supporting a greener business.  

In trials this year, consumers were able to reduce the carbon emissions of their spending by 28 per cent. Greener is accepting expressions of interest from businesses who want to be part of this world-first coalition, those who are genuine about taking action on climate change.


*Greener calculates the Green economy opportunity by multiplying the 73 per cent of Australians that are concerned about climate change (The Australia Institute – Climate of the Nation 2018 Report) with the average Australian household spend pa ($666 billion), according to 2015-2016). 

Robert Stockdill

Robert Stockdill

Robert Stockdill is a content writer with more than 30 years of experience in five countries. His style has built upon award-winning success in news and features in the print media to leadership in digital communication, spanning news websites, social media, magazines, brochures, and contributing to books. Recognising the devastating impact of consumer behaviour on the planet and wanting to help make a difference Robert launched Viable.Earth as a platform to celebrate positive contributions by brands, companies and individuals towards reducing environmental impact and improve sustainability – especially in the fields of fashion, beauty, food, lifestyle, and transportation.

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