J.D. Power Measures Sustainability Movement

Online commentary gathered from blogs and discussion board posts indicates that consumer conversations are shifting from simple discussion and debate of environmental sustainability topics to indications of personal action to create change, according to J.D. Power and Associates.

In comparing online conversation regarding sustainability topics that occurred between 2007 and 2008 on global warming, resource usage, conservation, recycling, energy usage and the environment--that occurred between 2007 and 2008, the J.D. Power and Associates Web Intelligence Division finds the following shifts:

• Conversations about sustainability topics have grown considerably during the past two years, more than doubling in number from the first quarter of 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2008. There was a marked rise in conversations in mid-2008 as gas prices peaked, with almost 160,000 conversations noted in June 2008.

• In early 2007, discussions about sustainability were dominated by people who were confused by conflicting evidence surrounding climate change and uncertain of their stance on the subject as well as by "negators" -- those who denied the existence of climate change and other environmental concerns and actively attempted to sway opinions of others. However, by early 2008, acknowledgement of the issue and concern about the environment grew considerably among online contributors. By December 2008, more than 7 out of 10 online posters who mentioned sustainability topics indicated they were concerned about the environment, and nearly one-half of posters reported that they were actively doing something about it, such as cutting back on electricity usage, reducing driving, recycling, and buying more "green" products.

• Online commentary among consumers who are considered "rejecters"--those who are skeptical or ambivalent about environmental concerns and do not make purchase decisions based on environmental factors--declined from a high of 22 percent in early 2007 to only 3 percent by the end of 2008.

• The proportion of bloggers who consider themselves "activists"--those who actively encourage others to modify behavior--increased considerably during the past six months of 2008, growing from 8 percent during the first half of 2008 to 18 percent of the total discussion set.

• During the second half of 2007, just 9 percent of all sustainability conversations mentioned a brand by name. By June 2008, this figure grew slightly to 11 percent.

"It is evident that consumer sentiment around the need to adopt environmentally sustainable habits is rapidly changing from skepticism to acceptance to activism," said Janet Eden-Harris, vice president of J.D. Power and Associates Web Intelligence Division. "Brands that are cognizant of this important shift and manage messages about their products and services accordingly have the ability to capitalize on changes that many consumers are making in their everyday lives."

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