Sustainability a key influence on the perception of a company

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 16th March 2009

New research from the UK has found that consumers are as keen to buy “green” as ever before, with 62% of consumers saying environmental concerns influence their purchasing decisions ‘the same as a year ago’ and just over a quarter saying they influence them ‘even more’ than in 2008.

The research established that a business’s green credentials have a significant impact on consumer buying choices. Two thirds (66%) of consumers say it’s important to buy from environmentally responsible companies, with one in seven (14%) saying they have voted with their feet by deciding not to buy from a company based on their environmental reputation, and almost a quarter based on a company’s ethical reputation.

As consumers increasingly scrutinise business actions on climate change, they want to see clearer, more credible information on what companies are doing to reduce their environmental impact. The research shows that 70% of consumers do not feel confident that they can clearly identify which companies are environmentally responsible. Six in ten consumers (59%) are skeptical about the environmental claims companies make, and 44% of consumers would like more information on what companies are actually doing to be environmentally responsible.

“This research shows that consumer values do not change, even in a middle of a recession,” Harry Morrison, head of the Carbon Trust Standard, said. “They want companies to act and cut their carbon footprints, and provide transparent and accessible evidence of action. We believe companies that take real action will seize the dual benefits of immediate cost savings and a stronger reputation, which is good for business.”

Consumers look to a range of indicators to understand whether or not a company is environmentally responsible, but the most important criteria they rely on are what they read in the media (38%) and third party endorsement or accreditation (34%). The least popular factor consumers use to judge whether a company is behaving in an environmentally responsible manner is what advertising tells them (6%).

And it’s not just businesses that are under the spotlight, people also expect to see evidence of action from public sector organisations – 81% feel it is important that public sector organisations tackle climate change and cut carbon, compared to 62% who believe it is important for all businesses.

YouGov surveyed nearly 2,000 UK adults in late February 2009 on behalf of the Carbon Trust Standard, the world’s first carbon award that requires an organisation to measure, manage and reduce its carbon footprint and actually make real reductions year-on-year.