Consumers Want to Buy Green, But Economic Woes Stifle the Market

Consumers Want to Buy Green, But Economic Woes Stifle the Market

The consumer marketplace has an appetite for more green products, but the demand for them is hemmed in by the roiling economy, according to the latest quarterly update from the Green Confidence Index.

The Index, which is derived from a monthly online survey of approximately 2,500 Americans aged 18 and over, has shown only modest variability in its early stage, reflecting the stability of consumer habits and concerns.

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, Responsibility was the most volatile over the last quarter of 2009, rising and falling each month. It was the only one of the three that ended the year below the baseline of "100," set in July 2009.

According to Chief Research Officer Amy Hebard of Earthsense, whose company creates the Index: "Consumers cite perceived price premiums for green as their most frequent reason for choosing conventional over green products. For green to move from niche to mass, a number of things need to come to pass."

These include reducing green products' prices, demonstrating their comparability to conventional products, leveraging the buying power of consumer groups, and "more effective communications that leverage the power of the retail experience or get inside the consumers' head to understand which drivers are relevant to whom."
The quarterly update published today also measured Americans' opinions on what it means to "live a green lifestyle." Green Confidence Index researchers asked Americans to express that in their own words, then collated and coded the responses.

Far and away, a green lifestyle was associated with recycling, with conserving energy and buying green products. "This reflects the fact that after a decade or more in which household recycling has become mainstream, it is now an ingrained habit that's easy for most people," said John Davies, vice president of GreenBiz Intelligence, a partner in the Green Confidence Index.

The survey also assessed the extent to which people associate companies with green practices or products by asking, top of mind, what green companies they could name. The results are consistent, with only one in three (36%) able to identify a company by name. In 4Q09, Walmart and Clorox led the list of the Top 20 Green Companies, followed by General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, SC Johnson, Toyota, and Whole Foods.

The Green Confidence Index is a partnership of three leading business information services companies:, 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