Younger consumers connect the dots between climate change causes and buying truly green brands
(SANTA BARBARA, Calif.)—New research conducted by EnviroMedia Social Marketing indicates young Americans, an estimated audience of 76 million people, will power the new green economy and are the key to future economic growth.
This national opinion poll reveals a clear generation gap in understanding the cause of climate change — and marketing experts say businesses that pay attention may find new growth strategies.
More than any other age group, 18- to 34-year-olds believe global warming is caused by human activities. Additionally, the research indicates Americans who believe in this connection are almost twice as likely to buy more green products in this economy than Americans who believe it occurs naturally.
“That should serve as a wake-up call to sellers and marketers of current and future green products and to any company in general,” said Kevin Tuerff, cofounder and CEO of Green Canary Sustainability Consulting, a subsidiary of EnviroMedia.
“These consumers reward companies providing services and products that are less toxic, less packaged and less energy intensive.”
Convictions Drive Purchases for Young Climate Change Believers
Results of the survey of U.S. consumers are being released today as The Wall Street Journal’s gathering of business leaders in Santa Barbara, Calif., called “ECO:nomics, Creating Environmental Capital” (March 4-6, 2009) begins.
- Overall, 51 percent of Americans believe climate change is caused by human activities. Twenty-nine percent believe climate change is occurring naturally, and 15 percent say climate change needs to be scientifically proven. Just 3 percent of the public does not believe climate change exists.
- Sixty-four percent of 18- to 34-year-olds believe humans cause climate change —more than any other age group.
- A surprising 82 percent of Americans say they’re still buying green products despite changes in the economy.
- Those who believe climate change is caused by human activity are more likely to have attended college; believe that green transportation or electricity from renewable resources is most beneficial for the environment (rather than recycling or minimal/reduced packaging); and are influenced more in their green purchasing decisions by third-party certifications than by word-of-mouth or manufacturer labels.
- More than half (56 percent) of the people who believe electricity from renewable resources is the most beneficial action for the environment believe humans are causing climate change.
Even Americans who say climate change is naturally occurring, or it still needs to be proven scientifically, are taking steps to help the environment by recycling and using some green products, according to the survey.
EnviroMedia CEO Valerie Davis said, “This research calls into question a focus on the traditional ‘sweet spot’ for marketers, people in an older age group (ages 35 to 54), as the best audience for green goods and services. This younger audience may provide a cause for optimism and change marketing strategies for some companies, perhaps even growth.”
“This is evidence that growth in environmentally friendly goods and services will likely come more from younger consumers than Baby Boomers,” said Stephen Walls, marketing professor with the McCombs School of Business, at the University of Texas at Austin. “For companies to grow, they’ll need to ensure their own house is in order and that they’re taking real steps to address climate change in the way they do business; then, focus on ways to reach this younger target audience who pay attention to not only the products and services they consume, but also to the actions and deeds of the corporations from which they buy.”
“This up-and-coming market is experiencing a breakthrough in its beliefs about environmental trade-offs from traditional manufacturing,” said Tuerff. “However, companies looking to make a quick buck off this generation by going green should be wary of being labeled a greenwasher by the same audience.”
About the Survey
Opinion Research Corporation surveyed 1,000 people January 23 – 26, 2009 by telephone in a random digit-dial sample, with a +/- 3.2 percent margin of error. The survey question: “Which one of the following describes your thoughts about climate change, or global warming?” Answers read: “Climate change doesn’t exist,” “Climate change is caused by human activities,” “Climate change is occurring naturally,” or “Climate change needs to be proven scientifically either way.”
Also see “82 Percent of Consumers Buying Green Despite Economy,” February 4, http://www.enviromedia.com/news-item.php?id=685, from Green Seal and EnviroMedia.