Green issues to return with economic recovery
A global survey of consumer perceptions of 'green' brands and corporate environmental behaviour has identified some significant differences in consumers' concerns, with 60% of consumers preferring to deal with environmentally responsible companies.
The survey was conducted to dentify emerging trends related to consumer perceptions of and purchasing behaviour toward so-called 'green' products. The 2010 data indicated that the majority of consumers plan to spend the same or more money on green products during the next 12 months, with more than 70% of consumers in China, India and Brazil saying they will spend more.
The '2010 ImagePower Green Brands Survey' found that, while climate change is important in most countries, 30% of Brazilians and 26% of Indians cited deforestation as their top issue, while in Australia, 68% of consumers said it was more important that companies manage water efficiently.
However, more than 60% of consumers in all countries said they want to buy from environmentally responsible companies, although the cost of green products continues to be a hurdle in developed countries. Selection and labeling were identified as the biggest challenges in developing economies.
"The survey shows the growing importance of consumer concerns and eco-literacy for companies. It is striking that interest in the environment and sustainability appears to be on the rise in markets all across the world, but the specific issues on which consumers are focused varies from country to country," said Dan Esty, chairman of Esty Environmental Partners. "The message is that companies must not only develop environmental strategies but they also need to be able to connect with consumers in a compelling and relevant way on a market-by-market basis."
Consumers confirmed that 'environmental consciousness' is an important corporate priority, ranking in importance behind 'good value,' 'trustworthy' and 'caring about customers.'
In the United States, energy use is considered to be the biggest green issue today. The survey also found that economic concerns continue to take precedence over environmental issues, with 79% of consumers expressing greater distress about the economy. However, 35% said they would still spend more on green goods during the coming year (down slightly from 2009's figure).
At the same time, 75% of US consumers said it is somewhat or very important to them that the brands they buy come from green companies, although more people said that this was 'very important' in 2009. According to Scott Siff, executive vice president for Penn Schoen Berland, "While the economy has driven down the priority of green for consumers we can expect that, as the recovery continues, the importance of green will return."
"One of the interesting trends we're seeing this year is the consumer recognition of what we're calling 'helper brands,' which provide useful information to consumers," concluded Annie Longsworth, global sustainability practice leader for Cohn & Wolfe. "While preference for brands that are 'in me, on me, around me' is still prevalent, consumers also value brands that make going green easier for them through online tools, tips and other forms of engagement through communication."