Published 9 years ago.
About a 4 minute read.
Socially and environmentally conscious attitudes are gaining ground, but corresponding purchases and behaviors are stagnant or heading south — and the rebounding economy may be the culprit. That’s the latest finding from Shelton Group’s seventh annual Eco Pulse™ study, released this week. Eco Pulse polls American consumers each year to track shifts in their attitudes, purchases and behaviors related to sustainability.
“Last year, an improving economy seemed to be stimulating environmental engagement and green product purchases, and all signs pointed to an increase in market adoption and significant sales growth for green products. But that’s not the case,” said Suzanne Shelton, CEO of Shelton Group. “We’re seeing a continued shift toward more pro-environmental attitudes, along with increasing concerns and feelings of eco-guilt that should, logically, be leading to more sustainable purchasing. But purchases and actions are not lining up with professed beliefs. And we think the improving economy is to blame.”
The study found that with the exception of recycling, self-reported sustainable 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 environmentally friendly cleaning, personal care and food product purchases.
“We think the improving economy shifted attention away from conservation and frugality,” Shelton said. “But the good news for green brands is that 70 percent of Americans are searching for greener products, and corporate commitments to sustainability are becoming a baseline criterion for product consideration. Companies that are doing a good job of ‘owning’ a sustainability issue or that are known for environmentally responsible practices are becoming appealing to more and more consumers.”
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The Group also says brands can play a key role in reversing this dropoff in more conscious behaviors not just by walking their sustainability talk, but by driving home their importance in more meaningful ways.
“Brands can help turn around these downward trends by doing a better job at making the connections required to shift sustainability into a true lower-level need position in the American consumer psyche so that greener behaviors really stick, regardless of what’s happening in the economy,” said Lee Ann Head, Shelton Group’s VP of research. "We can do this by better linking sustainable behaviors with recognized lower-level needs, like safety, health, security, and positioning sustainable solutions more favorably against less sustainable alternatives.”
The study also 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:
“We hope these findings help companies understand how important it is to define and tell their corporate sustainability story,” Shelton said. “By leveraging the issues consumers care about most, companies can get a competitive advantage while doing the right thing for the environment.”
Published Jul 30, 2014 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 7pm BST / 8pm CEST