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How Consumers Really Feel About Sustainable Products

Not all 'green' items live up to the hype, report finds
Emily Crowe, Progressive Grocer
sustainable cleaning
GfK has found that 44% of Millennials think about the environment when making product purchases.

American consumers are growing increasingly wary of “green” claims on products, even as anxiety about climate change remains high, according to a new Green Gauge study from GfK Consumer Life. Although 32% of respondents say they take the environment into account all or most of the time when making purchases, 37% of Americans believe green alternatives “just don’t work as well,” up eight percentage points since 2020.

Broken down by generation, the percentage of Gen Z members who believe these products don’t work as well as their standard counterparts rose from 27% to 37% since 2021, and Gen X jumped from 32% to 38% in the same timeframe. Millennials are the most skeptical about green product efficacy with 44% reporting they do not work as well. Still, 43% of Millennials take the environment into account when making product purchases all or most of the time.

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Additionally, more than half of Americans across generations believe environmentally friendly alternatives cost too much. That number has dropped from 70% in 2011, but according to GfK, the rise over the past year could reflect a new level of uncertainty around the economy.

“In 2010, GfK warned that ‘green fatigue’ was hitting the marketplace and that trends around sustainability had the potential to overheat,” said Tim Kenyon, VP at GfK Consumer Life and director of the Green Gauge research program. “While concern about the environment and demand for green products are high, U.S. consumers also want to see action from governments and companies – and they increasingly feel that products with an environmental benefit are falling short when it comes to both cost and quality.

“Simply doing good things does not mean that companies get a pass on the basics of everyday value and quality,” Kenyon added. “Despite the importance of purpose and supporting causes, brands need to balance the high minded and the practical in every interaction with consumers.”

According to Kenyon, marketers should work on translating this increased consumer concern about the efficacy of green products into purchase action. “Marketers are missing out on an opportunity to do good while still being profitable and solving that problem should be a top priority,” Kenyon concluded.

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