Flagging Economy Sinks Green Consumer Confidence

Flagging Economy Sinks Green Consumer Confidence

The past three months showed stagnation in the green economy, at least in consumer perceptions of it, according to the latest quarterly update from the Green Confidence Index. The Index returned to levels of mid-2009, in the depths of the recession.

The Index, which is derived from a monthly online survey of approximately 2,500 Americans aged 18 and over, now registers 101.4, nearly the baseline of 100.0, established in July 2009. Over the past 12 months, the Index had been as high as 106.5, as recently as April 2010.

"On the one hand, we consistently see a pent-up demand for more green products as many consumers say they plan to buy more of them in the future than they have in the past, or even to buy them for the first time," says Amy Hebard, chief research officer of Earthsense, whose company creates the Index. "As the economy improves, and people's financial stability increases, the trend can only be up. Clearly, we're not there yet."

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?

The Index does show modest signs of progress. The Information component of the Index has shown consistent gains and now stands at 103.3, with consumer perception of the quality and quantity of green information related to electronics, personal care products and automobiles counting for much of the increase. Demographics are another factor, with younger adults increasing their green purchasing while older ones show a modest decline.

"Consumers will need help and reliable information in order for green confidence to return to its higher levels," says Hebard.

The quarterly update published today also measured Americans' opinions about which companies they perceive to be environmentally responsible. In asking the question, "What company, if any, do you think of as being 'green'?," consumers are asked to name, top of mind, any company they wish. Walmart and Clorox topped the list over the past 3 months, with strong mentions for Johnson & Johnson, Pepsi, Procter & Gamble, SC Johnson, Seventh Generation, Toyota, and Whole Foods.

The survey also queried consumers on their notions of an environmentally responsible vacation. Asked what a "green vacation" would look like, participant responses ranged widely, from austere to pampering while definitions of luxury include anything from spa treatments to free ammo. Where does green go? Our vacationers chose the beach (3.7 percent), a nature preserve or national park (3.1 percent), an island (2.8 percent), or the mountains (1.8 percent). Some identified very specific locations such as a Disney resort, Hawaii, Alaska, or Las Vegas.

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.

More information and a sample copy of the monthly briefing can be downloaded at www.greenconfidenceindex.com.