More Consumers See Pollution As Serious Issue

Consumers doubt companies' motives.

As people notice more evidence of climate change, they’re becoming increasingly alarmed, according to the latest GfK Consumer Life survey. They want companies to do more, even though they don’t trust their motives. And they think the government could do better, too.

But with inflation still top of mind, that doesn’t mean they’re willing to spend more to buy better-for-the-earth products.

“More people are experiencing the impacts of environmental degradation, especially as it relates to climate change, like extreme weather events and wildfires,” says Tim Kenyon, director of the Green Gauge study at GfK Consumer Life. “As a result, concern for the environment continues to rise in the U.S. and other countries where we do this research.”



About 53% of U.S. respondents say they are seriously concerned about the environment and that protecting the planet should be a priority for everyone. And 67% agree that pollution is a serious issue, an increase of 3 percentage points from last year. They want companies to do more, with 67% saying they expect businesses to take action. That represents a gain of 4 percentage points from 2021 levels.

That said, they don’t think much of corporate motives, with 83% saying companies do good things for the environment to help their public image, not because they care. “Issues over trust and greenwashing have persisted,” Kenyon tells Marketing Daily via email.

But buying products consumers perceive as better for the planet is challenging, particularly given their financial concerns. For instance, 55% say “green” products cost too much, an increase of 4 percentage points from 2021. They are also sometimes seen as being of lower quality, Kenyon says.

And only 29% think about the environment when making a purchase, 3 points lower than last year. Donations to are also down, with the number of those giving money to environmental groups declining by 5 points.

People are keen on choices that are better for both the environment and their wallets. The percentage of consumers actively conserving energy at home rose to 67%, a gain of 3 points from last year, including shutting off lights, monitoring cooling and heating, and using appliances less often. And 80% say they wish they could do more.

All generations are concerned about the future, with more than 80% of Gen Z, millennials, Gen X, and baby boomers agreeing, “I am concerned about the impact that our environmental behavior will have on future generations.”

However, people under 40 are significantly more likely to do something about their concerns, such as invest their time and energy into environmental sustainability. “This includes talking to others about environmental issues, researching companies’ environmental practices, and volunteering for environmental causes,” Kenyon says.

Buying used items continues to gain popularity, with the number of those who bought something used in the last year rising 8 points.

GfK’s findings are based on responses from 35,000 consumers in more than 20 global markets, including more than 2,000 interviews in the U.S.

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