• 05.03.13

The Gap Between What Consumers Say And Do About Green Brands

Most people say they care about the environment when buying products, but to go so far as doing something about it–that’s a different story.

As we noted in a recent post, consumers care about buying items from socially responsible brands more than they ever have before. But caring about something doesn’t always translate into action. A new survey from Cone Communications reveals that there’s still a big “green gap” between what people say and do when it comes to environmentally sound purchasing decisions.


The Green Gap Trend Tracker survey tells us some things we already know: the majority of Americans (71%) keep the environment in mind when they shop, and almost half of people surveyed look for environmental information about specific products.

But there are some communications issues that linger between companies and consumers. While 71% of consumers read and follow instructions on how to use products with environmental claims, just 66% go so far as to deal with disposal instructions. And only 41% do additional research on proper disposal–presumably because 85% of those surveyed think that it’s the company’s responsibility to make sure consumers know how to use and dispose of so-called “green” products.

Liz Gorman, Cone Communications’ senior vice president of Sustainable Business Practices, sums up the problem in a press release: “The new green gap is about consumers only taking the idea of responsibility so far, despite feeling responsible for proper use and disposal. They’re buying with the environment in mind, but they rely on companies to provide access and education to truly ‘close the loop.’”

In fact, 71% (that seems to be the magic number here) of people surveyed said that they wished companies would do a better job in communicating environmental terms. But that’s not say companies should go too far in their messaging; 78% of consumers say they’ll boycott a product if they find out that its environmental claims are misleading.

For today’s environmentally conscious companies, information is key–but only if it’s true.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.