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Consumers Don’t Trust Green Product Claims, Survey Says

Eight in ten Americans don’t believe companies are addressing all of their environmental impacts, and only 44 percent trust companies’ green claims, according to research by Cone Communications.

This skepticism may affect sales. In fact, as many as 77 percent would be willing to boycott if misled, according to the 2011 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker.

Some 43 percent of consumers actively seek out environmental information on the products they buy, according to the survey. When purchasing an environmental product, 81 percent are likely to be swayed by an ecolabel such as Energy Star or WaterSense. And 80 percent would choose a product if its packaging featured specific data detailing, for instance, how much plastic was saved over an earlier version.

Environmental imagery on packaging, such as a mountain ranges or trees, would sway 44 percent of consumers, the survey says.

In general, green consumers are getting more savvy about products’ environmental claims. In this year’s survey just 36 percent of consumers thought that products labeled “environmentally friendly” have a positive impact on the environment – rather than just being less damaging than non-green products. This figure is down from 41 percent in 2011 and 48 percent in 2010.

Some 42 percent of Americans have been discouraged from buying a green product because they believed it cost more than the traditional product, and a third believed the environmentally preferred product would not be of equal quality, the survey says.

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3 thoughts on “Consumers Don’t Trust Green Product Claims, Survey Says

  1. Some of these findings are not surprising, although the findings on the power of green imagery to sway buyers over “certifications” is interesting. Other relevant analyses are available on consumer views of the “sustainability liability” (http://elmgroup.com/2010/08/17/seriously-consumers-dont-want-sustainable-products/), one example of flawed – but well known – NGO-sponsored sustainability ranking (http://elmgroup.com/2012/02/16/a-critical-review-of-the-enough-projects-conflict-minerals-ratings-for-electronics/) and an empirical analysis on the financial impacts of consumer perceptions on a specific sustainability issue on certain household name electronics companies (http://elmgroup.com/2012/02/01/conflict-minerals-financial-risk-report/).

  2. David, I think you raise an interesting point. I would love to hear more about what customers think about how companies can penetrate that skeptical barrier. Specifically as it relates to retailers what can they do to make their impact more personal to their guests?

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