An in-depth survey of green attitudes conducted in the UK and the US by
three WPP companies - Landor, Penn, Schoen & Berland and Cohn & Wolfe
- finds environmental attitudes transformed in both countries
Awareness growing fast on both sides of Atlantic
(ImagePower survey: Green brands)
survey for 2007, conducted in parallel in Britain and America, has revealed a rapidly greening environment for brands.
Environmental concern is now spreading beyond green-aware European vanguard nations. In both the UK and the US, fear of global warming is now lodged in the public consciousness and there is a widespread appetite for greater action to combat the threats.
We also found that there is a role for responsible brands to lead and educate their consumers in engaging with green issues. And that means there's a business opportunity for brands willing to commit to change.
Our study is based on a large sample internet survey conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland Internet Surveys Group in April 2007.
In the UK, the dramatic shift to green attitudes is one of the fastest revolutions in public thinking and behaviour ever seen. Today 60 per cent of Britons - united across all regions - spontaneously identify global warming and climate change as the biggest issue facing the planet today. A year ago, green was a fringe issue.
In the US recognition of global warming is rather lower at 40 per cent, with pollution and waste still seen as important worries. But awareness and understanding are clearly growing. In our 2006 survey, most US consumers were unfamiliar with 'green', confused about its meaning and caring little about their own actions.
Today, green is no longer a marginal issue for fanatics: the American public is engaging with green issues in large numbers - displaying green attitudes and behaviour as strong as anyone's.
Everybody's doing it
In the UK there is now an unquestioned expectation that everyone will embrace some shade of green behaviour in their day-to-day life.
There has been a widespread shift to green behaviour and we are highly sensitized to issues of waste. Amongst the total UK population:
- 61 per cent buy recycled products some or all of the time.
- 56 per cent take their own carrier bags to the supermarket.
- Britons are increasingly wary of emissions from personal transport.
- 87 per cent choose cars with energy-efficient engines or reduced emissions.
- 59 per cent take public transport to work, or join a car pool.
- Only 6 per cent now claim to drive a fast, sporty car.
- Only 4 per cent want an off-roader or heavy loader.
A third of us are attitudinally Strong Green: they see the impact lifestyle has on the planet and take real action to address it. Mid and Light Greens make up another 40 per cent - with gradually decreasing zeal for action. The remaining third are green-aware but less active about solutions - through apathy or self-interest.
The picture is fairly similar in the US. Segment proportions are not dissimilar to the UK - if anything, they are even 'more green'. But we must take account of different understanding of Green in US versus UK, plus the usual positivity of Americans in surveys.
Strong Greens in the UK are typically older, life-experienced men: 50+, well educated, married, living in suburban and rural areas. Their kids have moved out and they have time to consider and discuss green issues and implications for their families. They recycle regularly, buy recycled products and invest in energy efficient home appliances. But they also actively avoid waste - taking bags to the supermarket, driving a fuel-efficient car and washing it without a hosepipe.
They want politicians to do more: over half support environmental NGOs, they clearly look to business to take more steps to be greener, they single out home appliances as the business sector that has done most to make a positive impact on the environment. They also have strong views on how companies can make a difference - focusing (more adamantly than general public do) on reducing emissions/adopting sustainability and increasing recycling and conservation.
Strong Greens in the US are more 'average' than their UK counterparts; they are younger (but predominantly 40+), typically female, urban/ suburban, on average income. They're found not just in New York/San Francisco, but everywhere, with like-minded friends. They share most attitudes and behaviour with UK Strong Greens:
- Recycling, buying recycled products.
- Energy efficiency around the home and in transport.
- Support for NGOs.
In a sense, they are 'mainstream rebels', with a cause, but more likely to conflate emissions reduction with basic environmental housekeeping (for example, care with household chemicals, or supporting laws to reduce water pollution).
But they're also more concerned that society is on wrong track - and extremely disappointed about collective progress. They've developed independent and determined views with less help from the media than in UK. The urgent agenda of global warming is not yet quite in focus for most Americans - but it's getting there fast.
Green leadership role for business and brands
The more 'green-concerned' people are, the less well they appear to rate the performance of government. In both UK and US, over three quarters (76 per cent/77 per cent) think society's environmental performance is 'neutral / below par'. Over half (57 per cent/56 per cent) believe we're doing a 'terrible job'. Strong and Mid Greens in UK and US instead give credit to pressure groups and NGOs for driving the issue.
The vacuum of leadership creates role for business to lead and educate the public as responsible consumers... and the public wants to listen!
Eight in 10 Britons and Americans (80 per cent UK, 83 per cent US) say it's important or very important to buy from green companies. Consumers are now waking up to the environmental consequences of their purchase decisions. Our survey reveals an increasing appetite for green products and environmentally responsible brand practices. Brand perceptions reveal a common pattern in UK and US: the mainstream brands considered most green are dominated by grocery retailing, bodycare and household appliances, as well as energy/petroleum and cars. These are all categories close to the individual, where the 'green agenda' for products can be readily understood.
|"The more 'green-concerned' people are, the less well they appear to rate the performance of government"|
Finally, it is worth remembering that quality image is often accompanied by expectation of higher prices - which can impact purchase intentions. All consumer types link green with quality in most categories: they expect green brands to make better products. But both UK and US consumers are willing to pay a modest 'green premium' to compensate manufacturers for costs.
For example: 60 per cent of Britons will spend more on home appliances that save energy; 70 per cent regularly pay more for recycled paper and ethical bodycare.
The news for sceptical investors is therefore very positive. Green reputation appears to drive respect and appetite for a brand and its products across the broad spectrum of the public, as well as building the base of demand.
The survey also shows that appearance of a 'green-perceived' brand is likely to prompt a significant proportion of category users towards consideration and green trial in future.
Source: The WIRE (Sep, 2007) - Issue 26