Consumers Still Purchasing Eco-​Friendly Products, But Many Do Not Trust Companies' Environmental Claims

Eight-​in-​ten Americans don't believe companies are addressing all of their environmental impacts, and only 44% trust companies' green claims. This skepticism may even affect sales. In fact, as many as 77% would be willing to boycott if misled, according to the "2012 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker" survey. 

American consumers expect companies to address the full environmental impact of a product's lifecycle, from the impacts associated with manufacturing the product (90%), to using it (88%), to disposing of it (89%). And although 69% of American consumers routinely or sometimes consider the environment when making a purchasing decision, they are influenced most by end-​of-​life messages.


Consumers are less inclined to do their own homework on the environmental impacts of a company's products. Instead, 73% of consumers want companies to provide more environmental information on the product packaging to help inform their shopping decisions. And the majority of consumers (71%) wish companies would do a better job helping them understand the environmental terms they use to talk about their products and services.

Further clarity is needed because more than half of consumers continue to erroneously believe that common environmental marketing terms such as "green" or "environmentally friendly" mean a product has a positive (36%) or neutral (18%) impact on the environment. Fewer consumers were able to correctly identify these terms as meaning the product has a lighter impact than other similar products (25%) or less than it used to (3%).

The messages consumers want most, it seems, are those that are precise. When purchasing a product with an environmental benefit, consumers cited a symbol or certification (81%) and a message with specific data or outcomes (80%) as most influential in their decision to buy. For 73%, a more general environmental statement, such as "uses less water," is influential.


Green stigmas persist when it comes to consumers' decisions not to purchase products with an environmental benefit. Forty-​two percent of Americans have been discouraged from buying because they believed it cost more than the traditional product, and a third believed the environmentally preferred product would not be of equal quality. Other barriers include:

  • 27% say they didn't trust the environmental claim on the product
  • 23% say the product was difficult to find
  • 16% say the product design was unattractive

Concerns over cost can deter consumers, but cash savings can also drive purchases. Nine-​in-​10 consumers say they are motivated to buy an environmental product because it will save them time or money in the long-​run. Other motivations are more aspirational. Eighty-​eight percent say they are inspired to buy environmental products because it's healthier for themselves, their families or their communities, and 85% want to preserve the environment for future generations.

[Source:  "2012 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker survey."  Cone Communications.  27 Mar. 2012.  Web.  29 Mar. 2012.]