Consumers and sustainability

The environment rises to #5 on the list of concerns

The economic crisis certainly is the foremost “problem” for citizens of world leading Countries analysed in the Greendex survey National Geographic conducted in partnership with GlobeScan(1).

Ranking in second and third place are concerns that in certain ways derive from the first: political turmoil and unemployment; it is interesting to note that these issues claimed first place in Countries such as France, Germany, Brazil and Spain.

Environmental issues ranked fifth in this complex scenario, a significant rise compared to the survey conducted in 2008.

The table above nonetheless shows that consumers in industrialized Countries tend to be less concerned about global environmental issues than those in the so-called BRIC Countries, namely: Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Who is the environmentally sensitive consumer

Two-thirds of consumers around the world, according to Nielsen(2), would rather buy products and services from companies that implement programs to support the environment.

“Socially conscious consumers” tend to be younger (63% are under 40 years of age).

Almost half (46%) of them say they are willing to pay a little bit more for socially responsible products and services.

Euromonitor(3) recorded important regional differences in the social consciousness of consumers.

In North America and Europe consumers are seemingly less willing to pay a higher price than those in Latin America, the Middle-East/Africa and Asia-Pacific.

What consumers expect from companies

Citizens certainly want to see the companies to address the most urgent problem: economic development. Next, they want companies to be more environmentally responsible.

Consumers world-wide want to buy socially responsible products.

The vast majority (94%), given the chance, would rather buy a product tied to a “good cause”(4).

How to get consumers involved in 'greener' behaviour

National Geographic Greendex survey study asked consumers in 17 Countries to name 10 factors that discourage them from undertaking a more environmentally friendly behaviour(5): the highest percentage (44%) said it is the false claims some companies make about the environmental impact of their products.


(1) Greendex 2010: Consumer Choice and the Environment – A Worldwide Tracking Survey is a comprehensive measure of consumer behaviour in 65 areas relating to housing, transportation, food and consumer goods. Greendex 2010 ranks average consumers in 17 countries.
(2) Source Nielsen survey of more than 28,000 online respondents from 56 countries around the world 2011.
(3) Source Euromonitor. Green Influencer 2011.
(4) 2011 Cone/Echo Global CR Opportunity Study
(5) Source National Geographic Green Index 2010.