Thursday, April 12, 2012

Consumers Skeptical of Environmental Claims

Americans are interested in the facts about a product's environmental claims but have little faith. They are however swayed by certain eco-labels. These findings have important implications for the marketing of sustainability efforts.

When purchasing an environmental product people are increasingly looking beyond the superficial issues. According to the 2011 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker, almost half (43 percent) of consumers actively seek out environmental information on the products they buy, but an equal number (44 percent) do not trust companies. Eight in ten Americans do not believe companies are addressing all of their environmental impacts, and only 44 percent trust companies.

Although environmental imagery on packaging would sway only 44 percent of consumers, almost twice that number (81 percent) indicated they are likely to be swayed by an ecolabel such as Energy Star or WaterSense.

People are generally interested in knowing more about a products environmental claims. Some 80 percent of respondents indicated they would choose a product if its packaging featured specific detailed information.

The survey indicates that only slightly more than a third (36 percent) of those surveyed said they thought that products labeled “environmentally friendly” have a positive impact on the environment – rather than just being less damaging than non-green products. This represents a 12 percent decrease from 2010 when 48 percent indicated that products labeled green have a positive impact on the environment.

There is also some negative associations regarding the cost and quality of green products. Some 42 percent of Americans have been discouraged from buying a green product because they believed it cost more than the traditional product, and a third believed the environmentally preferred product would not be of equal quality, the survey says.

Skepticism is a real threat to the bottom line as the research suggests that more than three quarters (77 percent) of the people surveyed indicated would be willing to boycott a company if misled.

Transparency is a good way to gain credibility, but this only makes sense as long as company claims are verifiable. To this end independent third party verification may help to build consumer trust.

© 2012, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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