Survey: Environment No. 3 Issue for U.S. Consumers

Even with the growing abundance of green marketing in the last 12 months, the environment is not the most important issue to 75% of Americans. Still, 67% believe that the environment is in worse shape than it was five years ago, according to the 2008 ImagePower Green Brands Survey.

The report, released today at the Sustainable Brands 08 conference in Monterey, Calif., reveals that the economy is the leading issue among U.S. consumers. On the environment, which is No. 3 behind No. 2 energy, there is less concern for the long-term picture in global warming and climate change in comparison to responses in the 2007 Green Brands survey.

The 2008 survey was culled from 1,521 online interviews in the U.S. conducted jointly in April by agencies Landor Associates, Cohn & Wolfe, and Penn, Schoen & Berland. A counterpart U.K. survey was also staged.

“The [U.S.] results are somewhat alarming in that they indicate consumers only prioritize the environment when all other concerns are equal,” said Russ Meyer, chief strategy officer at Landor Associates, New York. “With agricultural commodities running low and the rising cost of gas in the United States, Americans indicate they have more immediate concerns than the environment.”

Consumers in the U.S. view industry as most responsible for environmental problems. But 36% believe it should be up to the government to implement policies and standards that would regulate industry and better the environment.

Americans consumers still view recycling as their most powerful contribution to the environment. While 95% believe that too much packaging is used on consumer goods, only 38% include packaging criteria in purchase decisions. “The results of the 2008 survey suggest that, despite conversations about eco-overload, sustainability is in a nascent stage,” said Annie Longsworth, president of Cohn & Wolfe, San Francisco.

Lower income consumers generally have a greater concern for the environment. Furthermore, 34% of Americans earning over $100,000 annually and 43% of Republicans think the country is moving in the right direction; 59% of Americans earning less than $35,000 annually and 70% of Democrats think we are moving in the wrong direction.

U.S. consumers believe body care products and grocery to be the greenest product categories. Travel and energy were viewed as the least green products.

Respondents in the U.S. listed their top 10 greenest brands:

1. Whole Foods
2. Burt’s Bees
3. Trader Joe’s
4. Tom’s of Maine
5. Toyota
6. Seventh Generation
T7. General Electric
T7. Honda
9. Whirlpool
10. Aveda