Consumers want greener living – but not at any cost

October 12, 2009

Britain’s enthusiasm for green and ethical living is being impacted by financial constraints it was revealed today, as new research from Mintel shows that one in five consumers are not in a financial position to think about green or ethical issues.  Even before the recession, price premiums were a barrier to more widespread take-up of green and ethical products and the evidence of altered priorities is that 12% of adults stated that they could no longer afford price premiums for green or ethical products.
However, the new report also shows a strong commitment to ethical and environmental issues, as those rating them as ‘very important’ were actually up marginally on 2008. Today, some 97% of adults have adopted at least one of the greener behaviours included in the survey, implying that there is a strong basis of support for further green initiatives, such as energy-saving ideas, if retailers and manufacturers were to provide positive leadership.
Indeed, in terms of low cost greener actions such as using re-usable bags and switching to low energy light bulbs behaviour has been unaffected by the recession. Mintel research reveals the amount of consumers adding energy saving features to their home is up 6% and those switching to energy saving lightbulbs are up 5% from last year.
In addition, it seems as a nation we have bought into the recycling mentality – fewer than 10% of adults claim to be “confused” about what can and cannot be recycled, showing that the majority of people understand what can and cannot be recycled and do not need any further information on packs.  In addition, some 44% of adults state a willingness to return “reusable drinks bottles to supermarkets or other collection points” and a massive 78% of Brits state they recycle as much packaging as they can.
Richard Caines, Senior Retail analyst at Mintel said:
“Our research shows that in the recession fewer people are prepared to pay more for environmentally friendly products, suggesting that for most people being greener is a ‘nice to do’ rather than a ‘need to do’ aspect of their lifestyles. The impact of the recession is forcing people to cut costs and trade down, so it is no surprise that one in five say they are not in a financial position to think about ethical or environmental issues or that 12% can no longer afford the price premiums for green or ethical products.”
“To overcome the ‘many concerned, but fewer buying’ scenario, retailers and manufacturers need to give people more reasons to buy, such as value-added benefits such as superior taste or health benefits. However, there is an element of people being greener by default because as people look to save money they are consuming less, using less energy and reducing their carbon footprint.” Richard continues
The research also reveals  Britons have a strong opinion about current packaging use – some 74% of us think Retailers should do more to reduce the amount of packaging they use.  However, although it is an issue consumers feel strongly about, packaging is not a point of difference that is likely to influence the choice of store or choice of product because the focus for the time being (if not for most people always) is firmly on saving money and looking for the best value.
“These figures show that so long as actions are low cost and do not inconvenience people they are easily assimilated into their lifestyles. Green activities such as recycling that cost nothing are widely supported and there is widespread support for more action on reducing waste, such as retailers making more use of recyclable materials or the use of re-usable containers.” Concludes Richard.
Meanwhile, it seems that retailers may not have reusable carrier usage in the bag for all ages groups. While older people (over 80%) have embraced reusable bags, younger people are lagging behind (only 59% among pre-family adults).   Furthermore, it seems females are more likely to think about reusing shopping bags as 82% of women have adopted reusable bags compared to 65% of men.

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