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Looking at the Big Green Buying Picture

ashkin, stephen, ashkin groupEarlier this month, two different studies were released, designed to capture a snapshot of the key supporters and purchasers of green products and services. One study, commissioned by SCA, the parent company of the Tork brand of away-from-home hygiene products, was conducted by the Harris Poll. The other was prepared by Shelton Group, a marketing and communications firm focusing on the green and sustainability industry sectors.

While the studies investigated different issues, they both indicated that the number of Americans selecting green products and services is either stagnant, or in the case of the Harris Poll, has actually declined.

Specifically, the Harris study found that 75 percent of American adults reported purchasing green products and services; however, this represents a slight decrease from last year when 78 percent reported doing so. While this is a small decrease and there likely have been ups and downs in the past, it came as a bit of a surprise. The belief has been that because most Americans are so much more focused on selecting green and sustainable products today, one would anticipate that number to have moved up, not down.

However, before digging deeper to learn what this could mean—if it means anything at all—we first should review some of the highlights of both studies:

  • There are expected to be nearly 80 million millennials by 2020, who will account for 30 percent of all retail purchases by the end of this decade
  • Twenty-seven percent of millennials say they have increased the number of green products and services they select (Harris)
  • Of adults 35 to 44 years old, 18 percent say they have increasingly selected green products and services (Harris)
  • Fifteen percent of adults over 45 have also increased their selection of green products and services (Harris)
  • Asked if they would select a green product or service even if it cost more, 40 percent of adults indicated they would do so for products if ethical and responsible manufacturing practices are guaranteed; however, 56 percent of millennials indicated they would pay more for such products (Harris)
  • “Greener” products and corporate commitments to sustainability are desired by 70 percent of consumers (Shelton)
  • About 30 percent of American consumers select products based on a company’s green reputation; 25 percent look to see if the product has been certified by a leading certification organization (Shelton)
  • If a company was revealed to have misled consumers about how green their products are or if they were fined for failing emissions tests, 50 percent of respondents would stop purchasing the product (Shelton).

Why the Decline

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