U.S. consumers are increasingly concerned about climate change and the environment. But a new study from GfK reveals that despite those worries -- with 62% saying climate change is either a very or extremely serious problem -- people are also more inclined to say green products are less effective and cost too much.
The growing concern about the planet is notable in all age groups, "not just Gen Z and millennials," says Tim Kenyon, vice president of GfK Consumer Life and director of the Green Gauge research program.
And 32% of the full sample say they consider the environment when making purchases, up one percentage point from last year. Millennials are most likely to say they do so, at 44%.
Yet there is a growing sense that green products are less effective, especially among millennials, with 44% saying they are skeptical about efficacy. That's true for 37% of Gen Z, 38% of Gen X and 30% of baby boomers. Each group's skepticism has increased since last year's study.
"We see a potential return to this idea of green fatigue. Even though we see a social movement where sustainability is becoming more important, there are some red flags," Kenyon tells Marketing Daily.
Cost is also an issue, with 53% saying eco-friendly alternatives cost too much, up from 51% the year before. Still, that perception has changed dramatically in the last decade. That percentage was 70% in 2011.
In the recession of 2008, there was a substantial shift away from green products as people worried about money.
"It was clear that economics was playing a role. That link is less clear today," says Kenyon.
Consumers are also more dispirited about the impact they can have on climate change, with 40% saying they don't know how to help, up from 34% in 2020.
Kenyon says that's a big jump, "given all the energy and momentum around this topic. It should give marketers some pause about exactly where this trend is headed. This may be a growing sense of people being overwhelmed with sustainability."
He certainly doesn't think marketers should stop their sustainable activities. "But we know from other data that people recycle less, for example. While we can't necessarily make a direct correlation between that decline and consumer concerns, we think there is some link. This shift isn't as financially driven."
GfK's Green Gauge research is in its 30th year and tracks behaviors in more than 20 countries.