The majority of US consumers will pay more environmentally friendly product—including some demographic groups you might not expect to feel that way. But they don’t necessarily think companies are doing a good job reducing their carbon footprint. Plus, Gen. Z is leading the way when it comes to vigorously pushing corporations to reduce their carbon footprint.
Those are some of the findings of the third annual Business of Sustainability Index, a survey of over 1,000 American consumers conducted by PDI Tehnologies .
“Even with all the obstacles they face, the majority of Americans want sustainable products and companies,” says Trenton Spindler, vice president of sustainability operations & innovation at PDI. “We may be seeing a real inflection point in consumer behavior.”
A Gap between Preferences and Trust
The research found that 74% of consumers care about the environmental impact of the products they buy. At the same time, however, nearly half (45%) of consumers say they believe American corporations are doing a poor job when it comes to reducing their carbon footprint and the footprint of the products or services they sell, an increase from 41% in 2022. And 79% want an easier way to identify those companies. That could include clear language on products (53%) and third party or independent validation (40%).
Consumers are willing to pay more. The study found that, despite inflation and economics uncertainties, more American consumers will pay a higher price for environmentally friendly products compared to two years ago— 64% in 2021 vs. 68% today. They’re also interested in carbon offsets. Sixty-four percent of consumers will pay more for gas when carbon emissions are offset.
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What’s more, that willingness to reach into their pockets crosses various demographic categories, including certain groups not usually associated with environmentally friendly causes. For example, 68% of households making under $50,000 would buy more expensive products vs 73% of households making over $100,000. Also 58% of Republicans and 80% of Democrats, as well as 57% of rural, 67% of suburban, and 76% of urban households would pay more.
Consumers buy more green products from certain industries. According to the research, consumers cite certain industries as ones where they tend to buy green. That includes utilities (70%), food/ restaurants (70%), gas stations (69%) and hotels (67%).
Other findings focus on loyalty programs. Specifically, the research found that companies get a good response by combining sustainability with customer loyalty programs. For example, 74% of consumers would likely sign up for awards/loyal apps to reduce their carbon footprint and 89% of those who would pay more for gas with carbon offsetting would also use a loyalty app. What’s more 75% of consumers would fill up at a gas station that offers carbon offsetting.
The research also zeroed in on younger consumers. As you might expect Gen Z is the demographic group most focused on environmental causes, out-performing other generations in their willingness to be more sustainable by nearly every measure. Specifically, 91% of Gen Z respondents want to buy from sustainable companies and 81% are more likely to purchase environmentally friendly products based on climate events in the past year. At the same time, all generations expressed an interest in buying green products.
They also voiced outspoken opinions about corporate performance when it comes to environmental issues. Forty percent think corporations are doing poorly in reducing their carbon footprint and 37% believe corporate profits should support environmental organizations.
It all spells a significant opportunity for enterprises that can make their impact easy to understand, actionable and certified by a third party—and poses a potential problem for companies failing to heed those steps. “There’s a risk for businesses that don’t understand the opportunity and react appropriately,” says Spindler.