It’s time to start meeting consumer expectations on climate

by Apr 26, 2023

Shelton Stat of the Week

61% of people around the world agree that buying eco-friendly products is an important part of their personal image.
Eco Pulse®, 2023 (Global)

Shelton Group has taken its 14th Eco Pulse study global — and after years of tracking what Americans think, it’s humbling to confirm what we’ve long suspected: we’re behind most of the world in our understanding and concern about what’s happening to our planet.

That said, we do see some progress and evolution in Americans’ thinking and, as you look at the answers globally, there’s a clear, important message for brands. Let’s break it down:

  • 78% of the world’s citizens believe that climate change is occurring and caused by man, and 86% believe that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are causing climate change. Now, the 86% could be a bit inflated — we gave them an answer set to choose from, so they didn’t have to come up with “climate change is caused by greenhouse gas emissions” all on their own. Still, the fact that such a huge number can make the connection speaks to the degree to which people are aware of the state of the planet.
  • But here’s a looming challenge for brands: 69% of people in the world “get it” that GHG-caused climate change results in extreme weather. But only 34% “get it” that GHG-caused climate change is responsible for food supply disruptions. So, most of us aren’t yet seeing just how bad climate change is for us. Extreme weather is scary and dangerous, but not having access to food is devastating on a whole other level.
  • As people begin to see exactly all the horrors of climate change, and wake up to the fact that even if every human on the planet went vegan, powered their homes with solar and drove an electric car (which is obviously not actually possible for most of the world’s population) we still wouldn’t reduce our GHG emissions enough to stop climate change — they’ll start holding companies more accountable.
  • And that speaks to the opportunity: 77% of the world’s population (and 66% of America’s population) already holds companies strongly or very strongly responsible for changing their practices to positively impact the environment. And knowing a company is a leader in reducing GHG emissions overwhelmingly positively impacts consumer opinions of the companies. There’s literally almost no downside to this — in the United Arab Emirates, for instance, only 14% say that knowing a company is a leader in reducing GHG emissions negatively impacts their opinion, and in the United States, Brazil, Germany and Nigeria, 9% say so … but the remaining opinions of folks in those countries are neutral or pretty darn positive as noted in the graph below.
  • Even better, globally only 15% of people are not interested in hearing from companies about their efforts to reduce GHG emissions and 55% actually are interested.

Eco Pulse®, 2023 (global)

Yet, as I’ve been noting over the last several months, there are messages that people all over the world say are resonating with them and driving purchase intent: recycling and recyclable products. Bottom line: the messaging from companies and brands has been centered on recycling and recycled content for 40 years. And, while of course that’s important, recycling alone isn’t going to solve the climate crisis. It’s time to expand the script and appeal to the emerging concerns of climate and its impacts. There are lots of upsides and almost no downsides to doing so now … but at Shelton Group, we believe there will be downsides in the long run if you don’t.

Given the degree to which consumers hold companies accountable for fighting climate change and the degree to which consumers want to buy good products from good companies — 61% of the world’s population wants to be seen as someone buying eco-friendly products — companies and brands that are NOT seen as reducing their impact will be de-selected and left behind by a consumer base that is putting (and increasingly will) their wallets where their values are.

The trick, of course, is HOW to message this. Our recent (and free) Buzz on Buzzwords report is a great primer on that topic, and we’ll be talking about all of this more in the run up to our release of this new global data in the weeks to come.

News of the Week
What the data says about Americans’ views of climate change

What the data says about Americans’ views of climate change
Pew Research Center

Americans aren’t just holding companies accountable for climate action. They want the same from the U.S. government. This Pew Research Center article details Americans’ sentiment toward climate change and the federal support they want to see toward climate action.

Read more…

African consumers are ready to take climate action

African consumers are ready to take climate action

The places most impacted by climate change are the most willing to believe they should take action. This Bizcommunity article reviews the survey results from multiple African countries regarding consumers’ sentiments toward climate change and their feeling of responsibility to take action

Read more…

Buzz On Buzzwords

Our latest research shows that Americans are becoming more engaged when it comes to sustainability; at the same time, their skepticism around certain words and phrases is growing. This means that for brands to connect with their ideal audience, build trust and remain competitive, attention to language is critical.

Find out what Americans think about sustainability, what different “green” words mean to them and how they interpret and respond to the jargon you may be using.

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About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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