A Closer Look At The Struggles Of Eco-Friendly Product Companies

A Closer Look At The Struggles Of Eco-Friendly Product Companies


As a consumer interested in green and ethical products, I wanted to take a deeper look into the challenges eco-friendly companies face. With environmentalism on the rise, many new brands have emerged to meet demand for sustainable goods. However, operating as a values-driven business comes with difficulties mainstream companies don’t encounter.

In this article, I’ll examine the unique struggles eco-friendly companies deal with across sourcing, manufacturing, marketing, and competing with cheaper conventional products. My goal is to highlight the extra effort required to run an ethical brand and bring transparency to why green products often cost more.

Sourcing Ethical Materials

One major struggle for eco-friendly companies is sourcing ethical, environmentally-friendly materials. Conventional supply chains utilize cheaper, readily available components like plastics, synthetic fibers, and mass-produced ingredients. Eco-friendly brands have a much smaller pool of sustainable materials to select from.

For example, sourcing organic cotton comes with extra steps compared to regular cotton:

  • Rigorous checks to certify suppliers follow organic farming practices. This certification process takes time and money.

  • Supply limitations since only 0.7% of global cotton cultivation is organic. Demand exceeds supply, driving up prices.

  • Paying fair wages to farmers and supporting sustainable growing techniques requires paying higher material costs.

Other industries like cosmetics and cleaning products face hurdles obtaining plant-based, cruelty-free, non-toxic ingredients. The extra effort to find ethical suppliers leads to higher material costs for green brands.

Manufacturing Challenges

After sourcing ethical materials, eco-friendly companies face challenges manufacturing in a sustainable manner. Factories must meet environmental standards around waste, energy use, and emissions. This often necessitates:

  • Upgrades to equipment and processes to minimize environmental impact. These upgrades require major investments.

  • Switching to renewable energy sources like solar or wind. This transition involves installations and retrofitting existing infrastructure.

  • Offsetting any remaining emissions or environmental damage through carbon credits or other Certified B Corporation requirements.

Adhering to these stringent sustainability guidelines during manufacturing leads to much higher production costs compared to conventional methods. However, ethical brands take on these expenses to minimize their ecological footprint.

Extra Marketing Efforts

Since most shoppers still gravitate towards cheaper, mainstream products, eco-friendly companies must exert significant marketing efforts to change consumer mindsets. Some of the extra initiatives required include:

  • Educational marketing explaining why sustainable goods have a higher price tag and are worth the premium. This typically requires detailed website content, labeling, and informational campaigns.

  • Influencer outreach to raise awareness among green living leaders with an existing audience. Partnering with influencers provides valuable exposure but requires compensation and coordination.

  • Startup advertising costs to increase visibility as a lesser-known brand. Paid ads help gain market share but require extensive testing and optimization to see returns.

  • Market research to better understand customer apprehension around costs and develop targeted messaging to overcome price sensitivity. Research takes both manpower and financial resources.

These necessary efforts to influence purchasing decisions require substantial investment but are vital for eco-friendly companies trying to carve out a niche.

Pricing Challenges Against Cheaper Products

The biggest struggle ethical brands face is pricing products high enough to achieve profitability while remaining competitive versus mainstream, lower-cost goods.

Factors like higher materials, manufacturing, and marketing costs force eco-friendly companies to charge premium prices. However, conventional products can undercut them on price due to mature supply chains optimized for efficiency and scale.

For example, mass-market beauty brands can charge $10 for a moisturizer. An ethical brand sources pricier organic ingredients, uses sustainable packaging, and pays employees fair wages. These extra costs mean they must price their moisturizer at $40 to see a profit, even after producing at lower volumes.

While some conscious consumers will pay more for green products, others continue purchasing cheaper alternatives they are familiar with. Eco-friendly companies must therefore delicately balance pricing against competition.

Partnering With Retailers

To drive distribution and sales, eco-friendly brands also face challenges partnering with large retailers who require:

  • Large minimum order quantities beyond a small company’s production capacity. Fulfilling giant POs strains resources.

  • Deep promotional discounts on products that cut into already slim margins.

  • Paying sizable fees for shelf space which reduces profitability. As niche products, green brands lack bargaining power with major chains.

  • Conforming to strict packaging and labeling guidelines. Custom sustainable materials often don’t fit retailers’ specifications.

Navigating these hurdles to get products on shelves requires compromising sustainability ideals and profitability. However, retail partnerships are key for scaling so most eco-friendly brands make concessions to access the mass market.

Difficulty Securing Sufficient Funding

Finally, eco-friendly startups face greater difficulty securing investors and capital to launch and grow their operations. Some key challenges include:

  • Uncertainty around market size makes forecasting difficult compared to proven conventional product categories.

  • Long payback periods on sustainability investments deter some investors looking for faster growth and returns.

  • Lower average order values until green products become mainstream make it harder to achieve profitability quickly.

  • Risks around securing materials and sales due to fluctuations in supply and demand for sustainable goods.

Facing more scrutiny, ethical brands must meet higher milestones to unlock second and third funding rounds. The long runway to profitability deters some investors entirely. However, values-driven companies persist through creativity, bootstrapping, and purpose-aligned funding sources.


Eco-friendly brands undergo unique struggles in materials, manufacturing, marketing, pricing, retail partnerships, and funding compared to conventional companies. But with environmental awareness growing, customers increasingly understand and appreciate the higher costs behind ethical goods.

Sustainable companies also derive non-financial benefits like positive brand affinity, loyal customer bases, and a sense of purpose. While the road is long, forward-thinking brands are willing to pave the way towards a greener future. Their present struggles will allow generations to come easier access to eco-friendly products as they enter the mainstream.