Study: Environment Does Matter in Consumer Behavior

Nearly three-fourths of U.S. consumers surveyed recently said that a significant environmental slip-up can cause them to stop purchasing a company's products, according to the Shelton Group, a Tennessee advertising agency focused on energy, energy efficiency, and sustainability.

Eco Pulse, the newest national study on U.S. consumers and green affinity, asked "How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement: 'Global warming, or climate change, is occurring, and it is primarily caused by human activity,'" 57 percent of Americans agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, with 20 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed (23 percent were unsure).

When asked, "What would you do if you found out that a company that makes your favorite toilet paper and has been advertising itself as 'green,' or environmentally responsible, had received a government fine for failing emissions standards or for polluting a nearby river?," 28 percent said they would likely keep buying, 44 percent said they would likely stop buying and 28 percent said they would stop buying and encourage their friends not to as well.

These percentages remained largely the same when the product category switched to electronic entertainment equipment.

"This number really got our attention -- that 72 percent of consumers said that a serious environmental infraction would cause them to take an activist-type role at the point of purchase -- with more than one-fourth going so far as to encourage others to boycott an offending company as well," said Shelton Group Chief Executive Officer Suzanne Shelton.

"Of course, how much these stats play out in reality has a great deal to do with the level of negative media coverage associated with a corporate environmental slip-up," Shelton said. "Nonetheless, companies should take note that -- given today's public standards -- they stand to risk a great deal with their customer base if they encounter an environmental performance crisis."

Eco Pulse also found that belief in "man-made" climate change varies significantly by political philosophy. While 72 percent of those who defined themselves as "somewhat to very liberal" agreed with climate change being man-made, 64 percent who said they were "completely moderate" agreed and 41 percent of those who said they were "somewhat to very conservative" agreed.

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