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Indian Consumers Conscious of Environmental Benefits of Sustainable Practices


The Indian consumer is increasingly conscious of the benefits of environmentally friendly and sustainable practices, according to Nielsen’s 2011 Global Online Environment & Sustainability Survey of more than 25,000 Internet respondents in 51 countries.  Among the environmental and sustainability efforts that matter to Indian consumers, 86 percent of Indian consumers surveyed place faith in energy efficient products and appliances, followed by recyclable packaging (79%). Least impact was given to products not tested on animals (41%), and fair trade products (44%).

The trend is in line with global numbers, where fully 83 percent believe that manufacturers using recycled packaging and producing energy efficient products and appliances have a positive impact on the environment.

“The Indian shopper is very much in sync with the global consumer when it comes to environmentally sustainable products, from organic products to those tested on animals, there is fairly wide awareness among Indian consumers on what practice is environmentally friendly”, said  Dipita Chakraborty, Executive Director, Nielsen.

Pollution over Climate Change

Concern about climate change/global warming among online consumers in India has taken a back seat compared to other issues surrounding air and water pollution.  Globally too, concerns around pollution override the issue of global warming.

In India, while nine out of every ten persons surveyed were concerned by air and water pollution, eight out of ten people thought that climate change was an important environmental issue. On the global stage, the latest findings, which were compared to 2007 and 2009 results, show that while 69 percent of global online consumers say they are concerned about climate change/global warming (up from 66 percent in 2009, but down from 72 percent in 2007), concern for other environmental issues are taking a higher priority in the minds of consumers and are rising with greater intensity. Three out of four global consumers rated air pollution (77%) and water pollution (75%) as top concerns, both increasing six percentage points compared to 2009.

“In Asia Pac, it is the environment issues that are faced in their day to day living that give more cause for concern. This is reflected In India as well, where while climate change is considered important, it is the problem of pollution and shortage that are highlighted. This also implies that people are aware of issues, and have been affected by them”, said Chakraborty.

In  sum, the top environmental concerns among Asia Pacific consumers include water shortage and air pollution, while water pollution was the main concern for Latin Americans, Middle Eastern/Africans, Europeans and North Americans.

Global Warming Skeptics and Believers

The study found that there are a number of consumers who are either indifferent or not concerned about the issue of climate change/ global warming.  In India over 60 percent believed that they were far more pressing problems that the world faces rather than climate control and that the issue wouldn’t impact them in their lifetime or that technology would take care of it. One-in-five global online consumers say they are neither concerned nor unconcerned about climate change/global warming and one-in-ten are not concerned at all. While half (48%) of unconcerned global online consumers cite “more urgent and serious matters in the world today” as the main reason for climate change apathy, 37 percent believe that climate change is not the result of human behavior and 23 percent believe future technologies will solve the problem. .

Referring to sustaining the environment, over half the respondents in India were influenced by manufacturers and retailers that used and supported raw materials that were not harmful to the environment.  Forty two percent were somewhat influenced by groceries not manufactured using unethical labour practices, and only 33 percent were very influenced by companies that support important social causes.

“Indian shoppers are increasingly becoming aware of what goes into a product and prefer to buy goods that use raw material that are not harmful to the environment. Ironically though, they are less concerned about a corporation’s social conscience when making a purchase decision,” said Chakraborty.

Gap between Concern and the Cash Register

When these factors are related to actual buying decisions for India, only about 44 percent purchase eco- friendly products as they are very expensive. And almost the same number of people would prefer to buy them, had it not been for the price. India is one of the top three countries within Asia Pacific that have shown an affinity towards eco friendly products.

Willingness to buy eco friendly products is highest in Vietnam & Indonesia, while New Zealand, Thailand & Malaysia  prioritise purchase based on value for money and promotions.

“The sensitivities to want ecologically friendly products are in place, but the high price for items from recycled paper, to organic foods make it difficult for consumers to purchase them for everyday use. Given a choice, the Indian shopper would go for these, rather than a value for money deal” says Chakraborty. 

Overall, 83 percent of global online consumers say that it is important that companies implement programs to improve the environment, but only 22 percent say they will pay more for an eco-friendly product. 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.

About the Nielsen Global Online Survey

The Nielsen Global Online Environmental Survey was conducted between March 23 and April 12, 2011 and polled more than 25,000 consumers in 51 countries throughout Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America. The sample has quotas based on age and sex for each country based on their Internet users, and is weighted to be representative of Internet consumers and has a maximum margin of error of ±0.6%.This Nielsen survey is based on the behavior of respondents with online access only.Internet penetration rates vary by country.Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60 percent Internet penetration or 10M online population for survey inclusion. The Nielsen Global Online Survey, which includes the Global Online Consumer Confidence Survey, was established in 2005.

About Nielsen

Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence, mobile measurement, trade shows and related properties. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit