OAKLAND, CA — American consumers pulled back from their earlier optimism on environmental issues, reversing a four-month trend in optimism, according to the monthly Green Confidence Index.
The Index, which is derived from a monthly online survey of approximately 2,500 Americans aged 18 and over, dropped sharply in January, from a high of 106.2 to 102.8, a one-month drop of more than 3 percent. The Index measures Americans' attitudes towards and confidence in how leaders and institutions are perceived to be addressing environmental issues, the adequacy of information available to them to make informed decisions, and their past and future purchases of green products.
The Index's three components include:
• Responsibility: Who's "doing enough" – and who's not?
• Information: Is enough information available and for what types of decisions?
• Purchasing: Is green purchasing continuing, accelerating or declining?
Of the Index's three components, it was Purchasing that was most volatile. While the Index found a modest decline in people's past purchasing across three broad sectors (food, personal/household car, and big-ticket items), the decrease in anticipated future big-ticket purchases was the largest yet, going from 29.8 percent to 25.9 percent.
"The leveling off of unemployment has not translated into increased green confidence," according to Chief Research Officer Amy Hebard of Earthsense, whose company creates the Index. "This is, no doubt, a by-product of the jobless recovery where new jobs remain elusive and consumers still wonder how to pay their bills."
Also this month, the Index looked at the longer-term impacts of Toyota following its massive safety recalls and high-profile executive apologies. It found that from a consumer point of view the effect has been to level the playing field -- for the short-term, at least.
The Index looked at four metrics and concluded that, compared with 2008, the decline for Toyota is dramatic. "Two years ago, 1 in 5 potential investors considered Toyota an attractive buy, second among automotives only to Tesla, a tiny but intriguing electric vehicle company," says Hebard. "Today, just 15 percent do, a dramatic 25 percent drop. Toyota is now in range with the industry average score for perceived investment attractiveness."
Meanwhile, Americans' driving habits aren't exactly up to par, when viewed from a green perspective. The Index found that while there's been some improvement in Americans' driving habits over the years, there remain ripe opportunities to cut pollution and oil use today. For example, only 58 percent of us are moderate drivers, accelerating and braking slowly, rather than engaging in jackrabbit starts and stops.
The Green Confidence Index is a partnership of three leading business information services companies: GreenBiz.com, part of Greener World Media, which also produces research reports and events on the greening of mainstream business; Earthsense, an applied marketing company that produces Eco-Insights, the largest syndicated survey of U.S. consumers' attitudes and behaviors toward the environment and sustainability; and Survey Sampling International, the world's largest provider of multi-mode survey research sampling solutions.
The Index is a subscription-based service. Annual subscriptions are $499, with charter subscriptions available at $299.
More information and a sample copy of the monthly briefing can be downloaded at GreenConfidenceIndex.com.