While the majority of consumers around the world (83%) say that it is important that companies implement programs to improve the environment, only 22 percent say they will pay more for an eco-friendly product, according to Nielsen’s 2011 Global Online Environment & Sustainability Survey of more than 25,000 Internet respondents in 51 countries.
Willingness to pay extra for environmentally-friendly goods is highest in the Middle East/Africa, where one-third of consumers are willing and lowest in North America, where only 12 percent of both Canadians and Americans say they will pay extra for eco-friendly products. Many consumers reported a personal preference for eco-friendly goods, but large percentages of respondents report setting aside this preference and buying whichever product is cheapest, including 48 percent in North America, 36 percent in Middle East/Africa, 35 percent in Europe, 33 percent in Asia Pacific, and 27 percent in Latin America.
Global consumers have mixed feelings about the environmental impact and benefits of particular sustainable practices. While 64 percent of consumers, globally, indicated they believe organic products are good for environment, there is wide regional disparity of opinion. Eighty percent of Latin Americans and 72 percent of Asia Pacific respondents think organic products are environmentally-friendly, but fewer people are convinced in Europe (58%), Middle East/Africa (57%), and North America (49%).
Sustainable Efforts Making a Positive Difference
Among other environmental and sustainability efforts manufacturers have taken, recycled packaging and energy efficient products are seen as the most broadly helpful. Fully 83 percent believe that manufacturers using recycled packaging and producing energy efficient products and appliances have a positive impact on the environment. Fewer consumers are convinced of the environmental impact of local products (59%), fair trade products (51%) and products not tested on animals (44%).
Belief in the impact of “local” products is highest in North America, where 65 percent of consumers believe these products have a positive impact on the environment.
Three quarters of global online consumers say they take raw materials into account when deciding where to shop and what to buy. Latin American consumers are most likely to take materials into account: nearly 9 out of 10 say that the use of raw materials harmful to the environment influences where they shop and what they buy. North American consumers are the least influenced by the use of harmful raw materials (59%).
Authenticity and Quality are Key
“Green-washing” (or making a product look sustainable), or incremental environmental improvements are not enough to move product. Environmentally sustainable products still need to perform better than the competitors. While sustainability initiatives may not be enough to move a brand to the top of the decision set just yet, consumers are interested in making a difference.