What Consumers Really Think of Green PR
Jon Greer, a media and PR analyst, summarizes some of the key findings from the Shelton Group's annual green consumer research. The study shows that consumers prefer "energy efficiency" to both "conservation" and "green" because it's clear and less suspect of greenwashing.
Posted 10.28.2008 on BNET
by Jon Greer
Here’s a quiz: which of the following environmental terms resonates most strongly with consumers:
a ) Conservation
c) Energy Efficiency
If you answered “b) Green” — you’re wrong! The answer is c) Energy Efficiency. That’s according to Suzanne Shelton of Shelton Group who conducts annual surveys of consumer attitudes toward environmental issues. Shelton’s research indicates that only 61.5% of consumers have a positive association with the word “green,” 63.5 percent feel positively about “sustainable,” 74% feel positively about “conservation” and a whopping 88.2% feel positively about “energy efficiency.”
Why? Because it’s a term they can understand. “Energy efficiency” means turning off the lights, lowering the thermostat, buying a hybrid car, and so on — things consumers can actually do. But what does “green” mean? It can be all things to all people, Shelton says, and consumers already see through the hype — that “green” is mostly a marketing buzzword designed to boost sales.
Other excellent tidbits from Shelton’s top-rate presentation at the PRSA International Conference in Detroit:
- Consumers are “armchair environmentalists” — they can see lots of things other people should do, but don’t want to do much themselves, unless it’s easy and saves them money
- People don’t know what the right things to do are — there’s an unmet need for a credible third-party to certify products and services that are good for the environment
- Consumers currently associate “energy efficient” and “green” with “more expensive”
- The economy is definitely having an effect: in 2007, consumers said that the first thing they would do if they had an extra $10,000 to put into their homes would be to replace flooring and countertops; in 2008, it was replace windows and upgrade their heating and cooling systems to save energy
- Most consumers know enough about sustainability and environmentally friendly products and services to “get through a cocktail party,” but that’s about all
And here’s the kicker of kickers: do you know what is the largest source of greenhouse gases? It’s not personal cars and trucks or even all of the transportation sector — it’s coal-burning electricity generation. That’s right — the whole push to do things virtually and plugging in is actually worse for the environment, as a whole, than getting in our cars or taking an airplane.