Small Biz Sees Less ‘Green’

April 9, 2009

One in three small-business owners in the US say the economy has negatively affected their plans to become more “green,” and 67% do not think their customers are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly goods and services today (up from 49% in 2007), according to a recent Wells Fargo/Gallup survey.


Given the perception that fewer customers value being environmentally friendly in the current economy, it is not surprising that fewer owners (37%) are taking specific steps to show their customers they are environmentally friendly than was the case in 2007 (47%), Gallup said.


Among this group who are going the extra mile to show customers they are environmentally friendly, nine in 10 attribute it to a personal commitment, while nearly three of four say it is for good public relations and community goodwill, the survey found. Additionally, 69% say they do so to attract customers and increase sales and 59% say they use this as a way to achieve cost savings.

Regardless of their outreach to customers, about half of small businesses say their companies are still doing as much as possible (18%) or everything that can be justified by cost (33%) to help the environment, especially in their internal operations. Only 17% of small business owners say their companies are doing “very little or nothing at all” to help the environment.

Among those who have participated in “green” activities over the past 12 months:


  • Almost 90% participated in recycling.
  • 77% switched to more environmentally friendly products such as cleaning products, energy-saving light bulbs or recycled goods.
  • 32% say that they used some type of alternative transportation such as walking, biking or public transportation, rather than a car, to save energy.

A third or less of owners say their companies have made additional efforts to go green during the recession.

“Small-business owners’ perceptions that their customers are less willing to pay more for environmentally friendly products and services are most likely correct,” said Dennis Jacobe, chief economist at Gallup. “At the same time, it is not surprising that one in three small-business owners suggest that the economic stresses on small businesses today have made it more difficult for them to make their companies more green.”

About the survey: The Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index surveys small business owners on current and future perceptions of their business financial situation. The Index consists of two dimensions: 1) Owners’ ratings of the current situation of their businesses and, 2) Owners’ ratings of how they expect their businesses to perform over the next 12 months. Results are based on telephone interviews with 604 small business owners nationwide conducted January 22 – February 2, 2009.


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