The profits of businesses taking advantage of green consciousness will only be assured if people continue to buy their products. It is not in their interests to encourage reduced consumption. Sally White, in a report advising manufacturers, argued:
In an affluent society such as ours, environmental problems are unlikely to be solved by heavy-handed attempts to make people consume less. The solution lies in redirecting many consumer choices towards environmentally friendly products. The answer is not necessarily reduced consumption but with more thoughtful consumption.
In 2009 some of the world's largest companies, including Coca-Cola and Tesco, claimed that green consumerism could prevent climate change so that there was no need to reduce consumption or slow economic growth. Sir Terry Leahy, the chief executive of Tesco, said "It will be a transition achieved not by some great invention or some great act of parliament, but through the billions of choices made by consumers every day all over the world" and that it was wrong to demand consumers should reduce their desires in order to cut emissions.
In contrast, most environmentalists argue that the consumer's first priority should be to buy less, to ask 'Do I really need this product?'. Yet green advertising encourages us to buy more, by suggesting we should buy a certain product because it is good for the environment. Yet, increasing numbers of environmental groups have resorted to green consumerism to increase their funds. The Australian Conservation Foundation, The Wilderness Society and Greenpeace all market environmental goods fairly aggressively in shops and by mail.
Saving the planet one purchase at a time is now a mainstay of modern environmental organizations and advocacy groups. A recent issue of “Sierra” — the Sierra Club’s magazine — even dreamed of an eco-friendly mall, where all the trappings of consumer culture intersected with green products. They envisioned an exclusive complex where sustainable and organic clothing could be purchased with a special credit card that simultaneously purchased carbon offsets. One shudders to think how the Sierra Club’s founder John Muir, who railed against the “devotees of ravaging commercialism,” would react to that idea.
Ian Grayson, writing in Chain Reaction, argued for voluntary simplicity. He argued that it is not sustainable to continue to consume goods at current rates, even if they are more environmentally acceptable. He claimed that a level of personal consumption above that required to meet basic human needs cannot be maintained by everyone in the world and therefore is inequitable if maintained by well-off people in Australia.
Juliet Kellner wrote in New Internationalist that, unless the green consumer movement constantly reiterates the message that people should buy less, 'it lays itself open to being hijacked by industrialists who simply wish to look green enough to make naive shoppers purchase more of their wares'. She argued that, since manufacturers still make environmentally unfriendly products and retailers still sell green products on the shelves next to non-green ones, this shows that the real aim of the exercise is still profit and that green marketing is merely a way of expanding sales. If they were genuinely concerned to protect the environment they would replace the unsound products with sound ones, not just augment their existing lines.