Protecting the environment has become increasingly important to consumers, with online buzz around sustainability growing 50 percent in 2007, according to research from Nielsen Online (PDF).
Early in the year, discussion was dominated by the topic of global warming, but through the year, bloggers progressively addressed a wider variety of green-related issues, with a particular emphasis on personal action such as recycling, avoiding excess packaging, and carpooling.
Discovery Channel’s TreeHugger led the top sustainability blogs for 2007, with 4,612 messages related specifically to sustainability. Worldchanging and Biopact took the No. 2 and 3 spots, with 738 and 722 sustainability messages, respectively.
Not only are consumers looking for practical steps they can take to reduce personal environmental impact, but they are also holding corporations accountable for action and results. Bloggers are quick to condemn “greenwashing” – when they suspect companies misrepresent their environmental impact with aggressive PR campaigns – as spurious attempts to be “green.” Consumers expect consistency in action and authentic and transparent messaging.
Nielsen Online analysis showed that similar environmental initiatives can provoke different consumer responses depending on a company’s reputation and history. For example, in the retail sector, while Wal-Mart and Target both introduced reusable shopping bags, some consumers voiced skepticism towards Wal-Mart because of its association with environmental, labor, and health care issues.