Americans Want To Buy Green, But They Don’t Trust Companies


The vast majority of Americans worry about the environmental impact of their purchases. And, even in these inflationary times, they’re willing to pay more for sustainable products.

But there’s also quite a trust gap: Few believe corporations’ claims of being green.

That’s what a recent survey of consumers learned. Called the Business of Sustainability Index, the annual study, conducted by GreenPrint, polled around 1,000 consumers in March about their attitudes towards sustainable products and corporate responsibility.

The findings offer encouraging news for social enterprises targeting climate and environmental issues, as well as cautionary results for companies engaging in greenwashing.

“Consumers have a significant unmet need related to their purchasing decisions,” says GreenPrint CEO Pete Davis. “And that translates into a risk for businesses that don’t react and an opportunity for those that do.”

Focus on Impact

The survey found that a distinct majority of American consumers are influenced by the effects of climate change and how they can do something about it through their purchasing decisions. Some 75% are concerned about the impact of things they buy. And 66% of Americans—and 80% of young Americans (ages 18-34)—are willing to pay more for sustainable products versus less environmentally aware competitors.

Perhaps most noteworthy, 64% of Americans would be willing to pay more for gas if the carbon emissions from their purchases were offset through sustainability efforts. That number jumps to 75% of Americans ages 18-34. When the survey was conducted, the national gas price average was $4.17. But after GreenPrint asked the same question again earlier this week, the response was still high, at 53%.

This focus on sustainable products seems to be driven, in part, by recent severe climate events, like wildfires and flooding. Seven in 10 say that, over the past year, such occurrences have spurred them on to buy environmentally friendly items.

What’s more, investors and employees express similar concerns. For example, 60% of respondents say they’ll buy stock in a company that is environmentally friendly.

Identifying the Right Companies

While they may be more focused on environmental impact, however, most consumers aren’t sure how to go about finding the best purchases. For example, 78% of Americans say they don’t know how to identify environmentally friendly companies, despite wanting to buy from them. To confirm a company’s environmental friendliness, 50% agree that clear language on products is important, and 46% say third-party or independent source confirmation is critical to their decisions. Among those who shop for environmentally friendly products, 72% use labels or third-party certifications on the product’s packaging to confirm if it’s environmentally friendly.

Trust Gap

At the same time, few consumers trust the claims that companies make. And that confidence declines significantly from the year before. Only 38% of Americans believe corporations most or all of the time when they make claims of environmental friendliness, a noticeable drop from 47% in GreenPrint’s 2021 study. Also, 41% say companies are doing a poor job at reducing their carbon footprint.

How come? Davis isn’t sure, but he conjectures that the lack of trust reflects a general decline in Americans’ confidence in other institutions. “We see declining trust in general,” he says.

Ultimately, according to Davis, the results provide positive fodder for companies focused on social and environmental impact. “It bodes well for startups addressing these issues,” he says.

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