How Important is “Green” to Consumers?

November 13, 2013

This article is included in these additional categories:

Boomers & Older | CSR & Environmental | Global & Regional | Men | Women | Youth & Gen X

Ipsos-Americans-Willing-to-Pay-More-For-Green-Products-Nov2013About half of Americans agree (top-2 box score on a 5-point scale) that they care about the efforts brands are making to help the environment, per newly-released survey results from Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange (OTX). Getting Americans to part with their money on this basis is a different effort, though, and one that brands might struggle with: only about one-third of respondents agreed that they would pay more for “green” or environmentally-friendly products. That echoes similar findings in the past. For example, last year, a Nielsen study found that consumers in North America were almost twice as likely to say they prefer to buy products from socially-conscious companies than to say they would pay extra for their products and services (64% vs. 35%). And while a similar study [download page] from Nielsen this year found that a growing share of consumers around the world (50% in total) said they would spend more money on goods and services from companies that give back to society, fewer – 43% – reported actually spending more on such goods and services. While it’s true that those studies didn’t focus specifically on brands’ environmental efforts, they support a general feeling that consumers don’t always put their money where their mouths (hearts?) are.

Part of the problem may be with brands’ environmental messages. According to a study released earlier this year by Cone Communications, 48% of Americans say they are overwhelmed by the amount of environmental messages they see and hear. (That’s more understandable when considering that research has found that the number of products marketed with environmental claims grew by a multiple of about 15 between 2004 and 2009, per a Worldwatch Institute report covered by Environmental Leader.)

More troublesome for brands is that only 46% of the Cone survey respondents said they trust brands to tell them the truth in those environmental messages. Consumers also appear confused about the messages themselves: 71% wish companies would do a better job helping them understand the environmental terms they use, and only about one-quarter could correctly identify what it means when a product is advertised as “green” or “environmentally friendly.” Indeed, a GfK study (reported here by Ad Age) discovered that 22% of respondents don’t know if companies’ environmental claims are true, double the proportion from 2008. Among those not confused about green-marketing claims, more than 4 in 10 believed that companies’ green claims are, in fact, inaccurate.

While cutting through the messaging clutter, convincing consumers of environmental claims, and finding consumers that will actually pay more for green products may be big challenges for brands, those efforts could pay off. In its 6th annual “Eco Pulse” survey, the Shelton Group argues that “green” customers – who are estimated to comprise 24% of Americans – are an extremely attractive audience, being affluent, early-adopters and the most brand-loyal consumers. According to the researchers, brand “should no longer think of them as the ‘green consumer’…” but ‘as the most desirable target audience for most brands – who happen to have highly green values, attitudes and behaviors.”

About the Data: The Ipsos research was conducted on the “G@48” wave between August 6-20th, 2013. The monthly Global @dvisor data output is derived from a balanced online sample in 25 countries around the world via the Ipsos Online Panel system. For the results of the survey, an international sample of 18,503 adults aged 18-64 in the US and Canada, and age 16-64 in all other countries, were interviewed.

Approximately 1000+ individuals participated on a country by country basis via the Ipsos Online Panel with the exception of Argentina, Belgium, Hungary, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden and Turkey, where each have a sample approximately 500+. The precision of Ipsos online polls are calculated using a credibility interval. In this case, a poll of 1,000 is accurate to +/- 3.5 percentage points and one of 500 is accurate to +/- 5.0 percentage points in their respective general populations. In countries where internet penetration is approximately 60% or higher the data output is weighted to reflect the general population.

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