Only 31% of UK manufacturers have products suited to the Green Deal according to a Chartered Institute of Marketing report

As an industry we are used to the government creating demand, it happens every time the Building Regulations are modified or new planning requirements introduced. The same is the case with the Green Deal with various government initiatives being introduced or planned to “encourage” homeowners to upgrade their homes.

This is not enough. The key point from a CIMCIG report Taking Sustainability to the Consumer is that contractors and manufacturers need to be taking action to create demand for their products and services. Alarmingly, independent research commissioned by CIMCIG found that only 35% of manufacturers who offer sustainable products consider the Green Deal an important opportunity by 2012.

Furthermore, only 31% of manufacturers said they currently had suitable products available. Of those who do not have products available 69% are planning to develop some. This shows a concerning level of complacency. There may be failings in the government’s plans and many challenges to overcome, but one thing is certain - the Green Deal will go ahead.

Reassuringly 78% of contractors working in this area do see the Green Deal as an important opportunity, but unless manufacturers have products available we will simply see more specialist products imported.

To encourage the industry to prepare itself for this opportunity, the report has drawn on several useful pieces of research to presents ideas for promoting sustainability to consumers. An important point is timing. The disruption to the home is not something people will take on lightly.

Most likely they will consider improving energy efficiency when a key trigger point occurs, such as moving house, kitchen and bathroom upgrade, heating systems renewal, loft conversions or extensions, having children, children leaving home or retirement. It is a matter of targeting consumers at one of these times.

There is a disconnect between the language of low-carbon and that of the consumer with a perception that green/eco/sustainable is for environmentalists

Effective communication is important, initially creating awareness, then informing the home owner with clear, credible and comparable messages. The right language is also important, there is a disconnect between the language of low-carbon and that of the consumer with a perception that green/eco/sustainable is for environmentalists. What people want is a normal house which is comfortable with low running costs. If they can help the environment and reduce waste then they will also feel good.

It is also important that they can go to a well know brand where they have confidence in the quality. That is where the major retailers and utility companies will score. They already have relationships with consumers, often have no quibble guarantees and a reputation for quality. If the construction industry does not prepare itself for this opportunity, but continues to stand on the side-lines pointing out problems then it will find that its role is limited to that of a second tier supplier.

Once we let new entrants into the market they will not be satisfied with just the Green Deal, they will expand into general refurbishment and then new build. In so doing they will marginalise the traditional players in the market. The Green Deal is a tremendous opportunity for the construction industry, companies must act now and make sure they deliver an effective and attractive solution.

Taking Sustainability to the Consumer can be downloaded from the CIMCIG website

Chris Ashworth is author of the report and a member of the organising committee for the Chartered Institute of Marketing Construction Industry Group (CIMCIG). He is founder of Competitive Advantage Consultancy ( ) which provides strategic marketing services to the construction industry.