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Brand owners must tap into regional environmental concerns, survey shows

Although their top environmental concerns may vary, consumers around the world express interest in purchasing green, but cost and education remain key hurdles.

Landor.jpgOne of the largest global surveys to date on consumer perceptions of green brands and corporate environmental behavior reveals global differences about the top environmental concerns among consumers. While climate change is important across most countries, 30% of Brazilians and 26% of Indians cite deforestation as the top issue, and in Australia, 68% of consumers say it’s important that companies manage water efficiently.

The fifth annual ImagePower® Green Brands Survey polled more than 9,000 people in eight countries and was conducted by WPP agencies Cohn & Wolfe, Landor Associates, and Penn Schoen Berland (PSB), as well as independent strategy consulting firm Esty Environmental Partners. The Green Brands Survey identifies emerging trends related to consumer perception and purchasing behavior of “green” products.

The 2010 data indicates that the majority of consumers plan to spend the same or more money on green products in the coming year, with more than 70% of consumers in China, India, and Brazil saying they will spend more.

The majority of consumers—more than 60%—in all countries want to buy from environmentally responsible companies, but the cost of green products continues to be a hurdle in developed countries. Selection and labeling are the biggest challenges in developing economies.

“The 2010 Green Brands Survey demonstrates the growing importance of consumer concerns and eco-literacy to companies. It is striking that interest in the environment and sustainability appears to be on the rise in markets all across the world, but the specific issues on which consumers are focused varies from country to country,” says Dan Esty, chairman of Esty Environmental Partners. “The message is that companies must not only develop environmental strategies to address their most important global impacts, but they also need to be able to connect with consumers in a compelling and relevant way on a market-by-market basis.”

More than two-thirds of respondents in each country polled cite reducing toxins and dangerous substances as the most important activity a company can do to be green, followed by water conservation or recycling. In addition, consumers say environmental consciousness is an important corporate priority, ranking in importance behind ‘good value,’ ‘trustworthy,’ and ‘caring about customers.’

“For the last few years we’ve seen interest in green brands increase in every country surveyed. Being seen as environmentally conscious continues to be an important brand attribute with all consumers; in fact, it ranks fourth behind ‘good value,’ ‘trustworthy,’ and ‘cares about customers,’” says Russ Meyer, Landor’s chief strategy officer. “Although still a differentiator in many categories, brand managers must remember that being seen as green is becoming a fundamental attribute for all brands.”

U.S. findings
In the U.S., energy use is considered to be the biggest green issue or problem today. The data also show that economic concerns continue to take precedence over environmental ones, with 79% of those polled expressing greater distress about the economy. Yet, 35% of consumers say they will spend more on green in the coming year (down slightly from last year).

”In the United States, 75% of consumers say that it is somewhat or very important to them that the brands they buy come from green companies, although more people said that this was ‘very important’ in 2009,” observes Scott Siff, executive vice president of Penn Schoen Berland. “While the economy has driven down the priority of green for consumers, we can expect that as the recovery continues, the importance of green will come roaring back.”

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