Companies must lead climate change fight: consumers

Reuters_logo_jpegA recent Nielsen Company survey reveals that consumers consider corporate environmental consciousness increasingly important when making purchasing decisions.  The survey was of internet users worldwide but took place before the financial crisis and did not reveal whether or not consumers considered environmental concerns over others when making purchasing decisions.

Posted Sept. 23, 2008

By Alister Doyle, Environmental Correspondent, Reuters

OSLO (Reuters) – Most consumers want companies to do more to protect
the environment and reckon that firms should play a leading role in
fighting global warming, a worldwide survey showed Tuesday.


The poll, of 28,000 Internet users in 51 nations by The Nielsen
Company, showed that corporate commitment to green ethics is playing
"an increasingly influential role in consumers’ purchasing behavior,"
Nielsen said.


The survey showed that 51 percent of respondents considered it "very
important" for firms to improve the environment and another 36
"somewhat important." Nielsen said it was the first worldwide poll of
company ethics and corporate responsibility.


"A ‘global conscience’ is one of the biggest trends to have emerged
in the last decade," said Amilcar Perez, a vice president of the
Nielsen Company in Latin America. The survey was carried out in May,
before current financial turmoil.


It was unclear whether economic slowdown would undermine
environmental concerns, Timmons Roberts, a professor of Sociology at
the College of William and Mary in Virginia involved in the poll, told


"It’s hard to tell. For some consumers who buy fair trade coffee, for instance, it may now part of their budget," he said.



Asked how they would like to help social and environmental causes,
68 percent favored buying greener goods with just 13 percent preferring
to donate cash. It did not probe how far respondents might be willing
to spend extra on greener goods.

"The results show that environmental issues are gaining traction,"
said Max Boycoff, a researcher at Oxford University’s Environmental
Change Institute also involved in the survey.


"If organizations are looking to gain a foothold and reach out
beyond the self-identified environmentalist, consumer behavior could be
a way forward," he told Reuters.


Asked by Nielsen to name the biggest contributions society can make
to combating climate change, 40 percent said governments should
restrict companies’ emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.


In second place, 38 percent favored government-led research into
low-emissions cars, houses and renewable energy. And 37 percent said
people should recycle more waste. Respondents were allowed to pick more
than one answer.


More than 190 governments have agreed to work out a new global
warming treaty by the end of 2009 to curb emissions of greenhouse gases
after warnings by the U.N. Climate Panel of ever more heatwaves,
droughts, floods and rising seas.


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