'Going Green' Consumer Bandwagon Stalling, Poll Finds

July 7, 2008 - 8:06 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Despite unwavering attention from the media, government and business, global warming is only of moderate concern to most consumers, according to a new survey of consumers and their environmental attitudes.

"Consumers are not drinking the Kool-Aid when it comes to green," said J. Walker Smith, president of the Yankelovich, Inc., marketing firm, which released the survey results on Monday.

"While they're highly aware of environmental issues due to the glut of media attention," said Smith, "the simple fact is that 'going green' in their everyday life is simply not a big concern or a high priority."

This is "the first study of its kind to examine how much consumers truly care about green issues," stated the research firm, based in Chapel Hill, N.C., in a news release, which further noted that only 34 percent of consumers feel much more concerned about environmental issues today than a year ago.

Also, only 22 percent of the 2,763 consumers surveyed think they can make a difference when it comes to the environment.

"Take former Vice President Al Gore's book, 'An Inconvenient Truth.' Even though it received widespread acclaim from media and scientists alike, 82 percent of consumers neither saw the film nor read the book," Smith said.

Nevertheless, consumers are far more knowledgeable about environmental issues than they're generally given credit for, he added.

"For example, Al Gore's '10 Myths' in 'An Inconvenient Truth' are not considered myths by consumers at all," said Smith. According to the survey, for instance, "only 7 percent of consumers believe Gore's 'myth' that it's already too late to do something about climate change."

In addition, "only 4 percent believe global warming is a good thing, and only 8 percent agree that the warming that scientists are recording is just the effect of cities trapping heat rather than anything to do with greenhouse gases," he indicated.

Chris Horner, senior fellow with the free market environmental group Competitive Enterprise Institute, told Cybercast News Service on Tuesday that the results of the survey indicate that global warming alarmists have "overplayed their hand."

These groups largely use "spoke-alarmists whose own wretched excesses expose the movement's hypocrisy and/or lack of seriousness," Horner said. As a result, "the consuming public sees this for what it is: a fashion accessory or statement of fashionability, but not a crisis."

Telephone calls and e-mails seeking comments from such "green" groups as the Sierra Club, Greenpeace International, the Environmental Defense Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council were not returned by press time. But Smith had some good news for environmental activists.

Despite the fact that nearly half of all consumers have lukewarm attitudes about "going green," Smith said that companies can -- and should -- exploit the "greenness" of their products.

"While the environment is not a mainstream consumer concern, it does represent a niche opportunity in the marketplace, with just over 30 million Americans (13 percent of the 234 million people 16years of age and older) 'strongly concerned' about it," he stated.

Second and equally important, "if organizations are required to meet strict federal and state environmental regulations -- often at huge expense -- it makes sense to try to leverage the 'new and improved' green product to consumers," said Smith.

"The good news for companies is that while the majority of consumers' attitudes towards the environment may be only of moderate concern, it is possible to change consumers' behavior so that the green attributes of a product become a key feature in the buying decision," he said.

"Where companies are currently falling short with their green marketing strategy is that they're failing to establish a personal connection with the consumer," Smith stated. "In other words, consumers currently have no knowledge of what green means or has to offer to them.

"To make a green marketing strategy successful, organizations must employ behavioral tactics that move consumers up the continuum to greater levels of 'greenness,'" he said. "Marketers who focus on these segments in isolation will not change consumers' green behavior."

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