Environmental Messaging Largely Immune to Consumer Distrust

Consumer mistrust of big business may be at its apex thanks to the recession but interest in environmental purchasing remains surprisingly strong. Such are the findings of the just released 2009 Cone Consumer Environmental Survey.

According to the study, 34% of American consumers indicate they are more likely to buy environmentally responsible products today and another 44% indicate their environmental shopping habits have not changed as a result of the economy. Fewer than one-in-10 (8 percent) say they are less likely to buy. 

Even with the dire economy, American interest in the environment has not waned, and as a result, many consumers are inclined to hold companies accountable for their environmental commitments today and in the future, says the new report. Other findings are as follows:

35% of Americans have higher interest in the environment today than they did one year ago;
35%  of Americans have higher expectations for companies to make and sell environmentally responsible products and services during the economic downturn; and,
70%  of Americans indicate that they are paying attention to what companies are doing with regard to the environment today, even if they cannot buy until the future.

“The fact that consumers continue to be interested in the environment and mindful of corporate efforts, even in the midst of a grueling recession, is evidence that this is more than just a passing trend,” says Jonathan Yohannan, senior vice president of corporate responsibility for Cone.  “Environmental responsibility is not just an expectation in times of prosperity.”

As consumer confidence in companies dips to record lows, trust in environmental messages remains surprisingly resilient.  Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Americans say they trust companies to tell them the truth in their environmental messaging.  There is one caveat:  Most consumers (85%) believe companies should communicate their environmental commitments year-round.

“Earth Day is right around the corner, and we’ll likely see many environmental campaigns hit the marketplace to capitalize on the event,” says Yohannan.  “But companies must think beyond this singular occasion to develop authentic and long-term commitments, even as they weather the recession. Environmental communications continue to be credible touch points through which business can regain or sustain consumer loyalty and trust.”