Almost one-third of American consumers (32%) report heightened interest in the environment compared to one year ago, and 93% believe that companies have a responsibility to help preserve the environment, according to the 2007 Cone Consumer Environmental Survey.
The study found that a large number of Americans are now environmental "doers" themselves: In the past year alone almost half (47%) said they have purchased environmentally-friendly products, while more one in five (21%) have donated to an environmental organisation, and almost that many (18%) have advocated for environmental issues.
Going greener by the day
Most Americans reported that they are also making efforts in their personal lives to intentionally reduce their impact on the environment, including:
· Conserving energy: 93%;
· Recycling: 89%;
· Conserving water: 86%;
· Telling family/friends about environmental issues: 70%.
Americans are now calling on companies to be more proactive in their day-to-day operations when it comes to the environment. Concerns over packaging and transportation are competing with pollution as an issue, and most consumers support meaningful company actions including:
- Reducing pollution through office and manufacturing operations (71%);
- Designing products and packaging with more environmentally-friendly contents and minimal packaging (69%);
- Distributing and transporting products more efficiently (69%);
- Communicating environmental efforts to consumers and employees so each group can support those efforts (62%);
- Donating money to environmental causes (59%);
- Lobbying for environmentally-friendly policies (57%).
Purchase decision drivers
The majority of consumers (91%) feel they have a more positive image of a company when it is environmentally responsible. However, almost as many (85%) said they would consider switching to another company's products or services because of a company's negative corporate responsibility practices.
Moreover, many reported that there are factors that would motivate them to pay more for environmentally-friendly products. These include:
- Saving money in the long-term (72%);
- Shopping convenience / products readily available (63%);
- Health and welfare of future generations (63%).
What companies can do
According to Julia Hobbs Kivistik, executive vice president of cause branding at Cone, "This is a call-to-action for companies. It's an opportunity for innovation in product design, packaging, and distribution. Companies ultimately need to engage consumers and effectively communicate the impact their business practices and products have on the environment."
Advertising is the main way that consumers prefer companies communicate their social and environmental issues and practices (45%), but electronic communications, particularly via company web sites, are growing in popularity. Communication by way of a company's web site now falls just behind advertising as the second leading channel for social and environmental communication (41%), reinforcing the idea that, as companies become more environmentally-friendly, their communications vehicles should do so as well.