The Information Resources survey broke down "sustainability" into four key areas. In addition to environment, they include: health and labor practices; organic; environment-friendly products; environment-friendly packaging; and policies for employees and suppliers, principally from growers and manufacturers.
According to the IR survey, 29% of respondents said they look for environment-friendly products or products with environment-friendly packaging, 23% considered "fair trade" or environmental practices when choosing where to shop, and 39% look for organic products. Overall, 48% of consumer respondents fell into at least one of these overlapping areas.
The heavy preference for organic foods, in particular, has benefited large retail chains with organic offerings, like Safeway and Kroger, IR noted.
Recent surveys have revealed the increasing importance of "green" practices and products to American consumers, especially among young people. The recent "College Explorer" survey from Alloy Media + Marketing found that 37% of the 2007-2008 class said they preferred brands and companies that are "socially conscious"--up 4% from the previous year.
The broad "socially conscious" category includes a number of causes that are not mutually exclusive. Thus, the socially conscious cohort ranked "fair labor" practices as most important (74%), but were also concerned about corporate environmental policy (66%) and philanthropy (63%).
Separately, a report released by JWT last year revealed that more than 80% of American teenagers are concerned about the environment and the role of the United States in causing pollution, with 54% saying they are "strongly bothered" by these issues.