What have the turbulent past few years done for consumers' behaviors around the environment? With political leadership on the issue notable only by its absence, the issue of whether consumers will ever embrace the sort of behavioral change most experts say is needed to avoid future environmental disaster is becoming ever more pressing.
Leadership companies will be those that get into the game and join those already playing. That means boosting their credibility and building much-needed trust in business to nudge "stuck" consumers on the environment.
Consumer behavior is stalled despite widespread socioenvironmental values that, in theory, should be fertile ground for growth, according to the 2012 Greendex, National Geographic's biannual index on sustainable consumption across 17 countries.
Greendex is a composite indicator comprised of 65 individual variables spanning the categories of housing, food, transportation and consumer goods. We have seen no substantive change in Greendex sustainability scores since 2008. Effective companies will be — and need to be — the ones who will change this.
Despite this behavioral stasis, 56 percent of consumers across the countries studied agree that they are very concerned about environmental problems. Only 13 percent disagree. And four in 10 say that environmental problems are having a negative impact on their health. These views are particularly pronounced in large developing economies like India, China and Brazil. Not by coincidence, these are also the homes to consumers with the lightest environmental footprint (for now).
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