Skepticism Remains Concerning Companies’ Environmental Messages

cone-attitudes-to-environmental-claims-march2012.jpgCompanies appear to have their work cut out from them when it comes to getting their environmental claims across to consumers, finds Cone Communications [download page] in its 2012 Green Gap Trend Tracker, released in March. Just 44% of American consumers trust companies to tell them the truth when it comes to environmental messaging, relatively unchanged from 43% who showed such trust last year, but down from 47% in 2008. And consumers will not be shy in their response: slightly more than three-quarters said they would stop buying a product if they discovered that an environmental claim was misleading.

It appears that what Americans want is honesty: three-quarters said they were fine with a company not being environmentally perfect, so long as it is honest about its efforts.

Half Claim Message Overload

A slight majority of consumers also say they are being overwhelmed by the amount of green messaging they are receiving, while less than two-thirds report being able to understand the environmental terms that companies are using in their advertising. As a result, about 7 in 10 wish that companies would do a better job helping them understand the environmental terms they use, although this is down from three-quarters who felt that way last year.

1 in 3 Consider Impact At Least Regularly

The ability for companies’ messaging to resonate with consumers takes on added importance when looking at how often consumers factor in environmental concerns while shopping. This year, 1 in 4 said they regularly consider the environmental impacts of their purchases, while a further 8% do so every time they shop. In fact, only 12% of respondents said they never consider the impact on the environment of their purchases.

Cost is Main Factor in Purchase Decisions

When it comes to purchase decisions, though, environmental concerns take a back seat to price. The leading reason consumers cite for being discouraged from purchasing environmental products is because they believed the product cost more than the traditional product (42%). At the same time, the leading reason consumers give for being motivated to purchase environmental products is because it will save them time or money in the long run (90%), slightly ahead of health (88%) and environmental preservation (85%) concerns.

According to Nielsen’s 2011 Global Online Environment & Sustainability Survey of more than 25,000 internet respondents in 51 countries, released in August 2011, while the vast majority of consumers around the world (83%) say that it is important that companies implement programs to improve the environment, only 22% say they will pay more for an eco-friendly product.

Other Findings:

  • 4 in 5 Cone survey respondents said they do not believe companies are addressing all environmental issues (the environmental impact of how a product is made, use, and disposed of), whether or not the companies tell them about it. Roughly 9 in 10 believe that companies are responsible for addressing each of those environmental issues, though.
  • The impact of disposing of a product is the single area that the largest proportion say is most likely to influence their purchases (42%), ahead of the impact of using a product (33%), and of making a product (25%).
  • The most common reaction to a product being advertised as green or environmentally friendly is that it has a positive impact on the environment. At 36% of respondents, though, this is a significant drop from 41% last year and 48% in 2008. Indeed, 11% do not believe these claims mean anything.

About the Data: The 2012 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker presents the findings of an online survey conducted February 23-27, 2012 by ORC International among a demographically representative sample of 1,019 adults, comprising 517 men and 502 women 18 years of age and older.