Australians want green but not at great cost: report

Posted by Isobel Drake on 9th September 2008

Australians are unwilling to trade their lifestyle for the environment, a study by market intelligence research group TNS has discovered.

A 17-country green study found that cost is one of our greatest barriers to adopting ‘green’ behaviours.

The ‘Our Green World’ study revealed that, when asked to rate the condition of their own natural environment, globally six in ten think their local environment is ‘poor’ or ‘fair’, while only four in ten Australians share the same opinion.

The remaining 58% of Australians rate the condition of our environment as ‘excellent’, ‘very good’ or ‘good’, a level of regard surpassed by only one other country involved in the study – Singapore, where 81% of citizens hold a positive opinion of their local environment. Only two other countries also recorded a majority with a positive opinion of their own environment – the United States and the United Kingdom both at 51%.

Kate Snow, director with TNS Social Research, believes the results show there are high levels of concern for the global environment, as well as for local environments, almost universally worldwide. Australians, though, are keen on becoming “green” but not willing to sacrifice greatly to do so. “The majority of Australians have positive opinions about our environment at home, but this appears to be resulting in a lower urgency towards adopting ‘green’ behaviour when a lifestyle trade-off is involved,” she noted. “We are seeing that Australians are willing to make changes in areas that have little impact on lifestyle but are less willing to make more significant changes for the benefit of the environment.”

When asked if they have changed their behaviour to benefit the environment in the recent past, 53% of Australians state they have made changes; however, only 8% have made ‘a great deal’ of change, with the remaining 45% having made ‘a good amount’ of change. The main barriers to uptake of green initiatives that emerged were the cost of going green and poor perceptions of public transport which were issues for at least four in ten Australians. One in four also agreed they would love to do more for the environment but are put off by confusion arising from conflicting information. A lack of awareness of what to do and a lack of time to make changes were issues for one in five Australians.

Amongst the countries surveyed, Australia ranked fifth in terms of the amount of behaviour change made to benefit the environment in the recent past but was above the global average of 40%. When asked to rate the condition of the natural environment in the world generally, 78% of respondents globally rate it as ‘poor’ or ‘fair’ compared to 71% of Australians.

When it comes to identifying which countries people feel are to blame, China and the United States are the most frequently mentioned globally. Other countries named were India, Japan, Indonesia, Russia and Brazil. For Australians, the countries causing the most worry are China (63%), the US (49%) and India (28%).

The food and beverage industry has slowly been embracing the “green” concept with new products such as Cascade Green along with retail store renovations to reduce the global warming potential of outlets. Such findings appear to solidify the notion that “greenwashing”, which occurs when companies overstate the environmental credentials of a product, has taken a toll on consumers, with increased skepticism as a result. Consequently, when promoting green credentials, businesses need to be able to support their claims with facts, as vague and unclear declarations are likely to cause more harm than good to their reputation.