One-third of Americans (32 percent) report heightened interest in the environment compared to a year ago. In addition, they are overwhelmingly looking to companies to act: 93 percent of Americans believe companies have a responsibility to help preserve the environment, according to the 2007 Cone Consumer Environmental Survey.
The new study indicates a large number of Americans are now environmental “doers” themselves: in the past year, almost half (47 percent) have purchased environmentally-friendly products, more than one in five (21 percent) have donated to an environmental organization, and almost that many (18 percent) have advocated for environmental issues. Most Americans report they are also making efforts in their personal lives to intentionally reduce their impact on the environment, including: conserving energy (93 percent); recycling (89 percent); conserving water (86 percent); and telling family and friends about environmental issues (70 percent).
Americans are calling on companies to be proactive in their day-to-day operations when it comes to the environment. Concerns over packaging and transportation compete with pollution as an issue. Solid majorities support meaningful company actions including:
• Reducing pollution through office and manufacturing operations:71 percent
• Designing products/packaging with more environmentally-friendly contents and minimal packaging:69 percent
• Distributing and transporting products more efficiently: 69 percent
• Communicating environmental efforts to consumers and employees so each group can support those efforts: 62 percent
• Donating money to environmental causes: 59 percent
• Lobbying for environmentally-friendly policies: 57 percent
“Americans clearly have a heightened environmental consciousness, and their expectations now touch on a range of business practices,” explains Mike Lawrence, executive vice president of corporate responsibility at Cone. “Companies need to have a credible environmental strategy that reaches across their operations if they expect to secure consumer trust and loyalty.”
The vast majority of Americans (91 percent) say they have a more positive image of a company when it is environmentally responsible. But almost as many (85 percent) indicated they would consider switching to another company’s products or services because of a company’s negative corporate responsibility practices.
“This is a call-to-action for companies. It’s an opportunity for innovation in product design, packaging, and distribution,” says Julia Hobbs Kivistik, executive vice president of cause branding at Cone. “Companies ultimately need to engage consumers and effectively communicate the impact their business practices and products have on the environment. Consumers are listening.”
Advertising is the leading way Americans prefer companies communicate their social and environmental issues and practices (45 percent), but electronic communications, particularly via company Web sites, are growing in popularity. Communication by way of a company’s website now falls just behind advertising as the second leading outlet for social and environmental communication (41 percent), reinforcing the idea that as companies become more environmentally-friendly, their communications vehicles should too.