Kearney: Consumers Want ‘Green’ Change But Won’t Foot Bill

Consumers are prepared to reward manufacturers, retailers and others offering products that benefit the environment as long as that doesn’t mean higher prices, according to market research firm A.T. Kearney.

“Earth Day 2019,” a study that queried 1,000 consumers in the U.S. about environmental benefit claims found that more than 70% of consumers consider their impact on the environment when shopping, but only 52% have shifted their purchase decisions. Still, the potential is for greater change, as 66% of survey respondents said they intended to shift within the year.

Even as they gradually change purchasing patterns, the survey revealed that consumers want companies to do more to help the environment. Time isn’t the issue. Just under 80% of respondents said they would consider delayed shipping if the environmental benefit was clearly articulated. Money is an issue, however. Almost half of respondents, across all income levels, note cost as the primary obstacle to purchasing “green.” Not only that, but more than 65% of survey respondents said companies should exceed government sustainability standards.

Of the consumers surveyed, 80% said they believe changing their personal everyday decisions is the most effective way to improving environmental outcomes whereas only 20% of consumers believe that supporting NGOs and government is a better path to change.

Consumers are skeptical when it comes to evaluating claims as to environmental friendliness. About 80% of consumers look to supporting factors or external certification to evaluate the credibility of benefit claims. Fewer than 25% of consumers ranked “intangible” claims, including undefined statements about energy reduction or water quality improvement, among their top three purchase decision influencers. Benefit claims such as recycling that are easily experienced by the shopper have more of an impact on consumer considerations than remote benefit claims or claims that are beyond consumer control or visibility, such as changes in production processes.

“What we see in these findings is that the consumer market may be more receptive to buying green products than they were in years past,” said Greg Portell, an A.T. Kearney partner. “But, they don’t want to sacrifice quality or pay higher prices to benefit the environment. And, two other things are clear: One, credibility, authenticity and communications are critical to selling any benefits. And, two, consumers expect manufacturers and retailers to bear their fair share of the cost.”