New Study Shows Consumers Aren't Buying Into Faulty Green Claims
The latest Green Gap Trend Tracker from Cone shows that 71 percent of participants surveyed will stop using a product if they've been misled about its eco-friendliness. For a country practically built on consumerism, that's a fairly high percentage. What's more, 37 percent say they are so "ticked off" by such practices that they would deem it necessary to entirely boycott the company and its product. Considering some of the anti-green comments my blog sometimes receives, I have to question if such unethical, misleading business practices have anything to do with the resistance some people have to all things green.
Cone, a cause-related marketing firm from Boston, has also witnessed a growing, sympathetic perception that companies have a difficult time getting it right every time. According to the study, 75 percent say products that are not entirely eco-friendly are perfectly acceptable insofar as the company is honest and forthcoming in regards to their efforts.
Nonetheless, consumers do not rate such communication efforts very highly. In fact, 79 percent would like companies to offer more information regarding packaging, another 75 percent want to know the environmental terms companies really use, and 59 percent contend that marketers shouldn't use environmental claims at all unless they can provide more details and explanations.
However, is the issue that marketers are so misleading (well, marketers are notoriously misleading...) or is it that consumers even know what environmental terms really mean? Terms such as "green" and "environmentally friendly" are, after all, rather vague. However, 97 percent think they know what such buzzwords mean, which is up from 90 percent in Cone's 2008 study. In fact, 41 percent believe such terms mean that a product has a "good or beneficial" impact on the environment. The truth is that such words merely indicate that a product is "less harmful" than the competition, and only 29 percent of people understand that.
Consumers were asked to "purchase" products that claimed some sort of mock, green certification. In comparison to products that had vague "made with natural ingredients" or "made with ... imagery" labels, the mock certified products won out among consumers, with 51 percent choosing those products and believing that the certification was credible and valid.
On a more optimistic note, however, the study did indicate that green concerns are surviving the recession, with 39 percent saying they consider the environmental impacts of their purchases at least some of the time, which is up from 36 percent in the 2008 survey. What's more 23 percent say they regularly consider environmental impacts of the products they buy, up from 21 percent. Down from 15 percent, only 11 percent say they never think about it. Nonetheless, only 8 percent claim to think about it every time they shop, which is actually down from 9 percent in 2008.
Finally, consumers are suspicious (as I think they should be)--57 percent mistrust green claims.
(The study surveyed 1,035 adults and tested three distinct marketing methods, asking consumers to "purchase" the aforementioned types of products with mock credentials)