A recent survey of over 1,000 US adults revealed striking evidence that two-thirds (66%) are willing to pay more for sustainable products, despite a growing gap in consumer trust of corporations.
Despite the pressure of high inflation — which has skyrocketed in the US since 2020 (from 1.4 percent to currently 8.5 percent) — 66 percent of US consumers and 80 percent of young US adults (ages 18-34) surveyed are willing to pay more for sustainable products versus less sustainable competitors, according to the second Business of Sustainability Index by GreenPrint, a PDI company.
However, 78 percent of those surveyed say that, despite their desire to support companies that align with their values, they don’t know how to identify environmentally friendly companies. To confirm a company’s environmental claims, 50 percent asserted that clear language on products is important; and 46 percent say third-party or independent source confirmation is important. Among those that shop for more sustainable products, 72 percent use labels or third-party certifications to confirm a company or product’s sustainability credentials — a finding that echoes SB Brands for Good and Ipsos’ most recent Socio-Cultural Trend Tracker research.
“Americans are very clear — they want sustainable solutions and are willing to pay more for them, if only they knew how to find them,” said Pete Davis, CEO and co-founder of GreenPrint — a provider of turnkey and custom carbon-offset solutions. “We are in the midst of a significant acceleration in public demand for sustainability; and companies that do not meet that demand will quickly fall behind their competitors, especially with young Americans.”
Growing trust gap between consumers and corporations
The study also revealed a growing trust gap between consumers and corporations when it comes to sustainability: Only 38 percent of US consumers surveyed tend to believe corporations when they claim authentic commitments to environmental sustainability — a noticeable drop from 47 percent in GreenPrint’s 2021 study; high-profile incidents of greenwashing from major beverage, fashion, airline and automotive brands in the past few months alone certainly haven’t helped preserve consumer trust. Overall, 41 percent think US corporations are doing a poor job of reducing their carbon footprint.
New avenues in brand transparency
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“Over the past year, public trust in the authenticity and effectiveness of companies’ sustainability efforts has eroded significantly,” Davis said. “This puts businesses making genuine progress in a bind because their actions are less likely to be recognized. To win back trust, the data clearly shows Americans want companies to validate their sustainability claims through independent sources, both on the corporate level and for their products.”
Other key findings
75 percent of US consumers surveyed are concerned about the environmental impact of the products they buy.
64 percent would be willing to pay more for gas if the carbon emissions from their purchases were offset through sustainability efforts; for younger adults, ages 18-34, this jumps to 75 percent.
69 percent say a product’s environmental impact is important to their purchasing decision.
70 percent agree climate events from the past year (wildfires, floods, air-quality dangers, extreme heat, drought, etc) have made them more likely to seek out more sustainable products. Of this group, 38 percent were not buying those types of products before; but recent climate events have encouraged them to do so.
45 percent believe it’s hard to maintain sustainable purchasing habits.
73 percent would sign up for a company’s voluntary rewards or loyalty program if it helped reduce the environmental impact of their purchases.
64 percent would like to own a credit card that automatically offsets a percentage of the environmental impact of their purchases.
60 percent are more likely to buy stock in a company that is perceived as sustainable, versus one that is not.
Going forward, Greenprint says the Business of Sustainability Index will continue to track consumer sentiment around sustainability (or claims to that effect) in the economy, how climate consciousness and literacy impacts consumer preference and perceptions of companies and their products, and the overall effectiveness of sustainability communications across various sectors and demographics.