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Is the Improving Economy Hurting Green Brands?

green companyGreen attitudes are gaining ground, but green purchases and behaviors are stagnant or heading south. And the economy may be the culprit, according to the Shelton Group’s seventh annual Eco Pulse study.

Eco Pulse polls American consumers each year to track shifts in their attitudes, purchases and behaviors related to sustainability.

The study found that with the exception of recycling, self-reported green behaviors and product purchases are generally stagnant or down across the board — from home energy and water conservation habits and product purchases, to transportation activities, to greener cleaning, personal care and food product purchases.

But, says CEO Suzanne Shelton, the good news for green brands is that 70 percent of consumers want greener products and corporate commitments to sustainability are becoming a baseline criterion for product consideration.

The study shows a continuing trend in the way Americans identify green products, relying less on packaging call-outs and more on overall corporate reputation and certifications. Half the population said that a company’s environmental reputation impacts their decisions as to whether or not to buy its products, and this impact is even stronger for those searching for greener products.

Specifically the study found:

  • Over a quarter of the market rely on certifications in their identification and selection of green products, but almost 30 percent of Americans said they know a product is green based on the company’s environmental record.
  • When asked the things that most strongly contribute to green reputation, the study shows increased emphasis on improving product content, such as removing chemicals of concern or adding recycled content, and reducing waste. However, corporate social responsibility initiatives also have a strong impact, as evidenced by unaided recall results. Many brands identified as green are not technically sustainable, but have successfully adopted environmental, health or human service initiatives that seem to be giving them a “green halo.”
  • Respondents were asked what they would do if a company that makes their favorite toilet paper and advertised itself as green were to receive a government fine for failing emissions standards or for polluting a nearby river. Results remained consistent with previous years, with almost 70 percent saying they’d stop buying the product. Specifically, 50 percent said they’d stop buying, and 19 percent would not only stop buying, but also encourage others to do the same. Only 30 percent said they would likely continue to buy the product.
  • While green product purchase drivers can vary across product categories, results showed that the top two drivers (natural resource conservation, 25 percent; health and safety, 23 percent) are the same as they were five years ago — the last time the study asked this question.

Last year’s Eco Pulse found green consumers are affluent, early adopters and extremely brand loyal.


Image Credit: green company via Shutterstock



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