Recent research shows that people are buying fewer green products because of the recession, that they find green certifications confusing and can't easily differentiate between products and brands, but few actively do their own research.
A new survey, however, comes to different conclusions. The survey, conducted for the past four years, shows "sustainability has stood the test of time," says global tissue paper company SCA, which commissions Harris Interactive to do the online survey.
The May survey shows that even during difficult economic times 69% of American adults are buying green products or services and 48% of them say they do so because they are better for the environment.
Interestingly, 32% believe green products are now the norm and a required expectation, while 42% believe green products and services are just getting started.
"While the majority of the adults indicate they make green purchases, we do see a small decrease compared to previous years. Coupled with the fact that almost one third of the people indicate green is the new normal, one could presume that people don't even see their current green purchases as being green anymore when in actuality they are. It could very well now be ingrained in their habits," says Mike Kapalko, Sustainability Marketing Manager for SCA's Tork Brand.
Customers Aware of Company Brands
Unlike other surveys, 82% say they are knowledgeable about which companies and brands have a strong history of sustainability.
And an impressive 80% say they consider the history of a company's sustainability when purchasing from them.
Only 20% believe most companies are ethical and transparent about their operations and even fewer - 18% - trust companies claiming to be transparent even if they have independent verification.
Instead, 73% of American adults say they can determine if a green claim is true. It's not clear how they determine that since only 27% say they do their own research and 19% say they rely on independent third party certifications. People also visit company websites, and value opinions from peers.
"As sustainability has continued to evolve to become more a part of everyday life, customers are taking the time to educate themselves on the range of practices and products that are available," says Joshua Radoff, a sustainability expert and member of the Tork Green Hygiene Council. "However, with the range of claims vying for consumers' attention, green certifications are gaining in importance as a transparent and unbiased source of data."
Here are the most popular and well understood labels and respected companies.
Green Restaurants Have Advantage
52% say they prefer eating at restaurants that have a social and environmental component, and appreciate greener choices on menus.
Nearly half expect a green restaurant to cost more because of the higher quality. They also favor restaurants that provide information on internal initiatives on greening, like efficient lighting, using green cleaning products, etc.
"Sustainability is important to customers and the consistency of the survey results over the past four years show the availability of green products and services is not a fad but expected," says Kapalko. "Doing what is environmentally correct is what customers want."
SCA Hygiene Products (PWA.DE) is based in Germany and has long been considered a sustainability leader for its attention to well-managed forests. The company makes a wide range of tissue products and has operations in 100 countries.
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