Survey: EU consumers reluctant to 'buy green'

While consumers in many emerging South American and Asian markets prefer to buy from companies that promote their environmental credentials, Europeans appear to adopt more sceptical views of green marketing, a new survey by TNS Global found.

The 17-country study, published earlier this month, revealed that 24% of respondents from across the world acknowledged that companies' green marketing had a "significant or large influence" on their purchasing decisions.

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The table was topped by countries such as Brazil, Mexico and Thailand, where around half of consumers said they were influenced by green marketing. Numbers were much lower in Europe, with Italians most impressed by green marketing strategies (25%) and Germans least (10%).

The results suggested that such variation could be partially explained by differing perceptions of the reasoning behind green corporate promotion. In Germany and France, almost 90% of consumers believe companies sponsor green initiatives to improve their public profile, or for marketing and sales purposes. Japan, on the other hand, leads a group of countries that give firms "the benefit of the doubt," with nearly four out of 10 consumers believing that companies do so out of genuine concern for the environment.

The market research firm asked respondents to rate the top 25 companies on the Fortune 500 list in terms of their environmentally-friendly credentials. Car manufacturer Toyota scored the highest, followed by General Electric, Volkswagen and Wal-Mart stores.

In general, the survey indicated that citizens worldwide are concerned about the state of the environment. A clear majority rated the overall condition of the natural environment as either 'fair' or 'poor' in their own country, an opinion which becomes even more negative if the world in general is considered: a massive 78% of respondents believe the condition of the global environment to be 'fair' at best.

People worry about air pollution, deforestation, water pollution and over-development in particular, and they are also prepared to adapt their personal lives to improve the situation, TNS said. 40% of respondents claimed to have changed their behaviour in the recent past to benefit the environment, focusing on actions in such areas as the home, cars and shopping habits. The majority did not care for donating to green organisations or organic gardening. Purchases of automobiles and food were most influenced by environmental considerations.

Moreover, people now seem more prepared to pay for green products and services. Emerging markets such as Thailand and Brazil topped the TNS chart as countries whose citizens were willing to pay more for environmentally-friendly products and recycling services, while those in the UK, France and Germany were significantly less willing to do so. A premium of 5% was acceptable for the majority, with Japanese, Spanish and French consumers prepared to pay considerably more.

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