Price Matters: Why Valuable Green Products need to be Affordable
For as long as I’ve known of Whole Foods, I’ve heard people joke about their high prices by referring to the chain as “Whole Paycheck.” Although this jest was all too true for the average earner — only those in the upper-echelons of wealth could truly afford to do their grocery shopping there — Whole Foods enjoyed meteoric growth.
Traditionally, Whole Foods customers fell into the LOHAS [Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability] market demographic, which was characterized as an affluent but relatively small target market. Recently though, I heard a Whole Foods radio ad about the thousands of sale items they offer every day, asserting that they were now more budget-friendly than their “Whole Paycheck” reputation. So now, it seems, Whole Foods is positioning their brand to become more mainstream — which would entail getting away from the image of an upscale store that only offers prohibitively-priced goods. I’m glad to see such a move, as it brings a titan of a company more in-line with the new generation of green companies that are built to effect rapid change rather than leverage huge profits. Sustainability is a time sensitive matter; each and every plastic bag, water bottle, and razor cartridge that gets tossed has a concrete adverse impact on the environment, so it’s imperative that more companies prioritize sustainability over profit.
“You get what you pay for” is an idiom that’s thoroughly ingrained in us. With few exceptions, we see a product’s price as representative of the item’s usability, quality, and value. Since launching the Albatross SHAVES the World from Plastic campaign, one of our biggest challenges has been how people perceive our low prices. Seeing our safety razors at a price that significantly undercuts the competition can cause potential customers to think the proposition must be too good to be true. “If it’s as great as you say it is, why is it only $19.99?”. To clear the air: Albatross razors are of the same quality as shavers retailing upwards of $50. The reason for their low price is to make shaving with safety razors affordable and accessible — we’re more interested in stemming plastic waste than profiting from dishonestly high margins.
In essence: we’re completely content to make less money if it means expediting a reduction in plastic waste. This emphasis on global value is the new face of Green products and transforms the space into one that demands Valuable Green products. Valuable Green products must be accompanied by affordable prices, because the key rate-limiting factor in a product’s transformative power is the breadth of its adoption. Affordable products are accessible and can thus proliferate and effect change at a much faster rate. A great example of this is in Tesla’s electric vehicles. The Model S costs upwards of $130,000 and Tesla sold about 50,000 in all of 2015. Then, Tesla announced the ~$35,000 Model 3, which saw 180,000 pre-orders on the very first day.
Price matters. For green products to add value to society they must be affordable. They must diverge from the traditional approach in which every dime is squeezed from the proverbial orange. The trend is catching on though. As we enter the future, low prices for quality goods must become the norm as companies seek to act faithfully on visions that extend beyond business. Our goal is to make double edged safety razors mainstream in order to see our goal of plastic free shaving come to fruition. We see that the path to achieve this begins with a low price.