America’s consumers offer a warning to business leaders and marketers looking to ride the green wave: either back your eco-friendly words with socially responsible actions or risk a backlash. Conscious consumers are demanding that companies be transparent about their practices and accountable for their impact on people and the planet.
Nearly nine in ten Americans say the words “conscious consumer” describe them well and are more likely to buy from companies that manufacture energy efficient products (90 percent), promote health and safety benefits (88 percent), support fair labor and trade practices (87 percent), and commit to environmentally friendly practices (87 percent), if products are of equal quality and price, according to the inaugural BBMG Conscious Consumer Report.
“In a world of green clutter, conscious consumers expect companies to do more than make eco-friendly claims. They demand transparency and accountability across every level of business practice. Avoiding the green trap means authentically backing your words with socially responsible actions,” says Raphael Bemporad, founding partner of BBMG.
Consumers’ most important issues are the ones that affect their health and wellness most directly, such as safe drinking water (90 percent), clean air (86 percent) and finding cures for diseases like cancer, AIDS and Alzheimers (84 percent). By comparison, only 63 percent describe global warming as the most or a very important issue.
Americans readily self-identify as “conscious consumers” (88 percent well, 37 percent very well), “socially responsible” (88 percent well, 39 percent very well) and “environmentally-friendly” (86 percent well, 34 percent very well). By contrast, fewer respondents self-identify as “green” (65 percent well, 18 percent very well), which is viewed as more exclusive.
While price (58 percent very important) and quality (66 percent very important) are paramount, convenience (34 percent very important) has been edged out by more socially relevant attributes: where a product is made (44 percent very important), how energy efficient it is (41 percent very important) and its health benefits (36 percent very important) are all integral to consumers’ purchasing decisions.
Whole Foods Market (22 percent) tops the list of the survey’s most socially responsible companies, followed by Newman’s Own (19 percent), Wal-Mart (18 percent), Burt’s Bees (17 percent) and General Electric, Johnson & Johnson and Ben & Jerry’s (all 16 percent).