Survey: Fewer consumers willing to pay to go green

Jack Neff

Published: January 2, 2013 6:00 am ET

Related to this story

Topics Sustainability Packaging
Companies & Associations

NEW YORK (Jan. 2, 11:10 a.m. ET) — As businesses ramp up marketing efforts to save the planet and regulators ready new guidelines to police them, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that consumers aren’t paying as much attention — at least if it’s going to cost them more.

A Green Gauge survey by GfK Custom Research North America finds that while 93 percent of consumers say they have personally changed their behavior to conserve energy in their household, they’re becoming less willing to pay more for green products.

The survey of 2,000 U.S. consumers, fielded last summer, finds five- to 12-point drops in the percentage of consumers willing to pay more for eco-friendly cars, biodegradable plastic packaging, energy-efficient light bulbs, electricity from renewable resources or clothing made of organic or recycled materials.

Much of the fault for the consumer pushback lies with marketers for over-hyping green products and making overly aggressive claims.

“You have this kind of heightened distrust,” said Diane Crispell, consulting director at GfK. “Consumers have become hypercritical. You see it with green and health claims.”

Any way you cut it, green is big business. Sales of environmentally friendly products in the U.S. exceeded $40 billion last year, according to data from various market tracking services and Advertising Age estimates. This includes $29.2 billion for organic food, more than $10 billion for hybrid, electric and clean-diesel vehicles, more than $2 billion on energy-efficient light bulbs and $640 million on green cleaning products.

Crispell sees a division of the market, with the most committed and educated “Green Indeed” consumers still willing and able to spend more on products, while those in the mainstream grow more skeptical.

“The awareness is there about environmental issues, and people are motivated,” she said. But the novelty has worn off for green products, “so people are evaluating them more and being more critical.”

In 2008, 62 percent of GfK’s respondents said they would pay more for a car that pollutes less; only 49 percent said so this year. When it comes to energy-efficient light bulbs, 60 percent of respondents this year said they would pay more for them vs. 70 percent in 2008. And though organic food sales seem to be booming (given the explosion of Whole Foods and the like), tolerance for high-priced organic foods is waning among the survey’s consumers. Just over half of respondents to the 2012 survey (51 percent) said they would shell out more money for food with no hormones or antibiotics, down from 57 percent in 2008.

Perhaps taking into account increased consumer skepticism, a new wave of environmental marketing seems to be less about selling and more about saving energy or water. Unilever, for example, is running a sustainability effort tied to its Axe brand about reducing hot water. The “Showerpooling” campaign on Facebook and YouTube, done with typical Axe irreverence, asks fans to take a pledge to share a shower with a like-minded acquaintance or attractive stranger.

Marketers who focus on things consumers can do to improve the environment “cede over control to the consumer,” Crispell said. This “can be very attractive. People like to feel they can do something.”


Comments

Survey: Fewer consumers willing to pay to go green

Jack Neff

Published: January 2, 2013 6:00 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Plastics recycling is in full swing behind the scenes at NPE 2015

March 26, 2015 11:00 am ET

Paul Benvenuti walks the NPE 2015 show floor in Orlando with purpose. Keep up or be left behind, because this man has a job to do this week, and he's ...    More

Image

NPE nudges attendees to recycle

March 24, 2015 1:47 pm ET

A public awareness campaign developed by Keep America Beautiful is receiving prominent display at NPE 2015 as part of the show's overall effort to...    More

Image

SPI launching recycling summit

March 23, 2015 5:10 pm ET

The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. announced Monday at NPE 2015 that the plastics trade association will return to Orlando in 2016 for a brand ...    More

Image

Designing a new image for plastics and recycling

March 23, 2015 2:36 pm ET

New York has its fashion week, and so does Paris and Milan. But they're no competition for Orlando this week as student designers who helped kick off ...    More

Image

DuPont exec: Still lots of lightweighting needed in the auto industry

March 23, 2015 6:00 am ET

In that role, Jeffrey Sternberg is responsible for bringing the breadth of DuPont advanced materials — as well as renewably sourced materials an...    More

Market Reports

Flexible Packaging Trends in North America

North America represents about 30 percent of the global consumption of flexible packaging. Annual growth in this region is forecast at 4 percent during the next 5 years.

For more insight on growth opportunities, drivers of growth and the outlook for 2015, download this report.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Plastics in Mexico - State of the Industry Report

This report analyzes the $20 billion plastics industry in Mexico including sales of machinery & equipment, resins and finished products.

Our analysts provide insight on business trends, foreign investment, top end markets and plastics processing activity. The report also provides important data on exports, production, employment and value of plastics products manufactured.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

More Events