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Single Mums Lead on Global Green Spend

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Women control nearly two-thirds of consumer spending, causing one marketing agency to identify mums as "the most powerful audience on the planet", explores Laura Hall and Isabel Sloman.

Figures from Unilever show that women globally control nearly $12 trillion of an overall $18.4 trillion in consumer spending - more than the GDPs of Brazil, Russia, India and China combined. With the right combination of educational campaigns and good design, their shopping habits could do a lot to check carbon emissions.

The assumption that a domestic role is a politically passive one needs to change, argues Servane Mouazan, the founder of the social innovation network Ogunté. "Women have to know that they hold the power of positive influence in their hand and that they can challenge assumptions", she says.

Women are leading the way on green spending habits. An EMAP survey found them 12% more likely than men to buy environmentally friendly products and services, and 10% more likely to pay attention to what companies said about their environmental impact. Another survey by the UK's National Federation of Women's Institutes and the Women's Environmental Network found that 86% want to see manufacturers design more environmentally friendly products, and 85% want to see carbon labelling on products. Studies in Sweden have shown that the social group most concerned with green purchasing and eco-labelling is single mothers.

This game-changing potential has been spotted by the US marketing agency The Mom Complex, which refers to mothers as "the most powerful audience on the planet". However, according to its research, three out of four 'moms' feel misunderstood by marketers. Katherine Wintsch, the company's founder, talks about 'Mom 3.0': "a millennial woman who is more comfortable being imperfect". Unlike the domestic angels of many cleaning product ads, she has a sink filled with dirty dishes and likes to go clubbing.

The Motherhood Creative, a consultancy which began as a blog by two moms in New York, is working with leading domestic brands to build better relationships with this audience. Its interactive website includes talks on topics such as how to make a quality meal without forking out for meat, and then get the kids to help with dishes.

The potential is vast, says Forum for the Future's consumer change expert Sally Uren: "Brands and marketing managers need to recognise women's power as drivers for environmental change, and engage the mainstream."

This feature appeared in 'Futuristas', a Special Edition produced in collaboration with the British Council and Marks & Spencers.

Green Futures is the leading magazine on environmental solutions and sustainable futures. Founded by Jonathon Porritt in 1996, it is published by Forum for the Future.