Yet Another Survey Finds Shoppers Willing to Pay the Green Premium

Yet Another Survey Finds Shoppers Willing to Pay the Green Premium

It should come as no surprise to longtime readers of that a new survey finds that shoppers from Sao Paolo to Shanghai are ready to shell out more cash for eco-friendly products, despite the recession.

Conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB) and other firms, 5,756 people from seven countries said they think the higher cost of green products is worth the benefits these products provide.

In addition, the majority of respondents said the "green-ness" of a company is "important" or "very important" according to the survey, which is similar to the results we've seen from other U.S.-based surveys. Adults (over age 18) in the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Brazil, China and India responded to the online questionnaire from May to June this year.

Because people are willing to pay more for green products from green companies in countries such as Brazil, China and India, signals an important shift in the green product landscape, said Scott Siff, executive vice president of PSB in a telephone interview.

"Developed countries like the U.S. and Britain are [pressuring] less-developed countries to control pollution and in particular CO2, and people in these countries are feeling the effects of that pollution," Siff continued. "The environmental consciousness is much higher than in the so-called developed countries."

In a statement timed to the release of the report, Siff said that these findings show that the market for green branding and green products may be even bigger than generally thought.

One of the most striking things about the survey results, Siff said, was the fact that in Germany, the largest challenge to purchasing green products is the perception of higher price. But in China or Brazil, clamorous demand for green goods -- in particular personal care products -- is outstripping supply.

Of course, what this survey could find is that these countries are just like every other country surveyed where shoppers say one thing and buy another. This is not the first, nor will it be the last survey that indicates shoppers are willing to pay more for perceived environmental benefits gained from a consumer product.

Unfortunately, data that would show growth in the organic sector (and ostensibly prove people really do put their money where their mouth is), was outside the scope of this survey.

As we reported in an earlier post about a survey with similar findings from U.S. shoppers:
While marketing departments be excited to hear that new surveys show people are willing to fork over more green to go green -- even in the recession -- some experts say actual sales usually fail to back up these consumers' claims.

As Executive Director Joel Makower notes in an earlier blog, "Many of these surveys begin to wilt when exposed to sunlight -- that is, when you read beyond the headline and first few paragraphs of the press release or executive summary."
It is difficult to reconcile the gap between what marketing companies say customers want, and what people are actually buying. And as Makower asks in a previous post, are consumers just telling pollsters what they want to hear? Are marketers trying to greenwash or perhaps even creating a self-fulfilling prophecy? Where is the data showing that consumers are willing to forgo short-term expenditures for long-term gains to benefit health, efficiency and the environment? We are still waiting.