The “greenest” consumers make up 24 percent of Americans, according to the marketing communications firm focused in the sustainability and energy efficiency sectors. But don’t think of them as “green consumers,” says Shelton Group CEO Suzanne Shelton. They are the “most desirable target audience for any company” and just happen to be buying green products from green companies, she says. They pay more for a brand they trust, they shop frequently and they like “shiny new ‘green’ things.”
Shelton calls this group “Actives,” and they are values-driven shoppers. Through their purchases they are creating an outward extension of their internal values. And these values most strongly align with protecting the environment, helping others, social justice and equality.
Actives also like certifications and expect manufacturers to address all of their concerns — not just about what’s in the product, but also about how it’s made and its life-cycle impact. Their brand loyalty is born out of connecting the dots from their values to brands and companies that align with these values and offer a sense of community and meaning.
The Eco Pulse findings also show that Americans, because of economic recovery, seem to be re-prioritizing the environment and green buying. These findings can help companies align their marketing activities with this group of consumers’ concerns, says Lee Ann Head, VP of research and insights at Shelton Group.
The study explores how Americans buy green products and their perceptions of corporate social responsibility initiatives, along with emerging issues like water conservation, reuse and alternative ownership/collaborative consumption. The study shows:
- A sustained increase in agreement with the statement, “Global warming, or climate change, is occurring and is primarily caused by human activity,” with 58 percent (compared to 48 percent in 2010) agreeing or strongly agreeing with the statement.
- Water is an emerging issue due to decreasing availability and looming price increases that will come with long-delayed infrastructure improvements. Yet Americans are still slow to adopt water-conserving behaviors.
- Corporate reputation continues to increase in importance in purchase decisions, and both a reputation for making green products and a solid environmental reputation can have an impact at shelf.
- Consumers care both about how products are made and about the content of the products they buy. For example, there’s increasing concern about chemical content in a variety of non-food products.
- Only about a quarter of Americans most often buy used and/or repair items rather than buying new items. Nine percent said they barter or swap rather than buy through local networks or online, and only 5 percent participate in a borrowing membership rather than buying.
Eight in 10 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 published in March.