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More Consumers Believe Sustainability Claims – But Many Still Skeptical

Americans today are more likely to believe businesses’ green claims, but 39 percent still say that companies’ assertions about the environment are not accurate, according to a report from GfK Roper Consulting.

This year’s GfK Green Gauge US Report saw a nine percentage point drop in the proportion of Americans believing companies’ green claims, from 48 percent in 2008.

The 2011 survey also found that only 37 percent of consumers believe business and industry are fulfilling their responsibility to the environment – but this is also a marked improvement from the 2007 level of 29 percent.

The GfK Green Gauge US Report has been examining environmental attitudes and behaviors of global consumers since 1992. SC Johnson launched the report’s precursor in 1990, and the household products company sponsored the survey again this year. The 2011 survey polled 2,012 adults.

This year’s report found that Americans’ purchasing choices focus on economics over sustainability – but consumers are still looking to make some environmental choices. In the survey, 41 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “First comes economic security, then we can worry about environmental problems.” This is a dramatic 13 percentage point increase from the pre-recession levels of 2007, GfK said.

Only 33 percent said that environmental concerns are “very serious and should be a priority for everyone,” versus 46 percent in 2007. A majority in 2011 did say that environmental concerns are at least somewhat serious.

When it comes to their own green efforts, Americans are focusing more on simple, practical actions, the survey found. Compared to 2008, more consumers today are drinking tap water instead of bottled water (63 percent, up five percentage points) and are bringing their own re-usable bags to the supermarket (39 percent, up 11 percentage points). But fewer consumers are avoiding products that they feel are not environmentally responsible (24 percent, down six percentage points).

“How Americans are participating in environmental protection is shifting. For a large portion of the population it is much more about what one can do as opposed to what one can buy,” said Timothy Kenyon, director of the GfK Roper Green Gauge Report. “They want common sense environmental solutions that help them make sensible changes to their lifestyle while still not significantly impacting them financially.”

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