Survey Finds Increase In Green Consumer Behavior Worldwide

The National Geographic Society has just released its second annual global green consumer choice survey (find the first one here.

  • The U.S. (and Canada) again scores lowest on environmentally conscious purchasing worldwide.

Posted May 13, 2009

By GLOBE-Net

In the second annual survey to measure and monitor consumer
behaviors that have an impact on the environment, the National
Geographic Society and the international polling firm GlobeScan have
found an increase in environmentally friendly consumer behavior in 13
of the 14 countries that were surveyed in both 2008 and 2009. 

Released today, "GreendexTM 2009: Consumer Choice and the Environment-A Worldwide Tracking Survey"
is a comprehensive measure of consumer behavior in 65 areas relating to
housing, transportation, food and consumer goods. Greendex 2009 ranks
average consumers in 17 countries-up from 14 in 2008-according to the
environmental impact of their discretionary and nondiscretionary
consumption patterns.    

Like last year, the top-scoring
consumers of 2009 are in the developing economies of India, Brazil and
China; U.S. and Canadian consumers again score lowest. Consumers
registering the best year-on-year improvement in environmentally
sustainable consumer behavior are the Spanish, Germans, French and
Australians, while Russians and Mexicans show the smallest increase.
Brazilians are the only consumers measured in both 2008 and 2009 to
show a decrease in their Greendex score. 

Much of the increase
in the overall 2009 Greendex scores was due to improvement within the
category of housing, where the Greendex measures the energy and
resources consumed by people’s homes. Changes within the categories of
personal transportation, food and consumer goods were mixed, some up,
some down. The results show that both cost considerations and
environmental concerns were motivators in consumers adopting more
environmentally sustainable behavior over the past year. 

First
conducted in 2008, the Greendex survey was expanded in 2009, with the
addition of Argentina, South Korea and Sweden to Australia, Brazil,
Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Japan,
Mexico, Russia, Spain and the United States. Seventeen thousand
consumers were polled online (1,000 in each country), answering
questions that measured their behavior in the areas of housing,
transportation, food and consumption of goods. Each respondent earned a
score reflecting the environmental impact of his or her consumption
patterns within each of these four categories, and four corresponding
"sub-indices" were created. 

Consumers were then assigned an
overall Greendex score (a measure of the relative environmental
sustainability of their consumption patterns) out of 100, based on
their performance within the four sub-indices. By comparing this year’s
scores with the previous year, changes in environmentally sustainable
consumption at both the global level and within countries can be
monitored. 

Consumption as measured by the Greendex is
determined both by the choices consumers actively make-such as
repairing rather than replacing items, using cold water to wash
laundry, choosing green products rather than environmentally unfriendly
ones-and choices that are controlled more by their circumstances-such
as the climate they live in or the availability of green products or
public transport. The initiative considers both of these types of
factors, with 60 percent of the 65-variable index based on choice or
discretionary behavior. 

Consumers in all 14 countries surveyed
in both 2008 and 2009 show an increase in their Greendex scores this
year, except Brazil, whose slight decrease dropped them from first to
second place.Greendex Overall Scores 2009

Not surprisingly, respondents in most countries named the economy as
their No. 1 national issue, much more so than in 2008. But the results
indicate that economic troubles may have worked to the environment’s
advantage in a number of instances: Among those who reported that they
reduced energy consumption at home over the past year, some 80 percent
say that cost was one of the top two reasons they did so.

And
of those who say they reduced their consumption of fuel for motorized
vehicles in the past year, nearly three-quarters cite cost as one of
their top two reasons. Furthermore, majorities in four
countries-Argentineans, Mexicans, South Koreans and Chinese-said that
high fuel prices motivated them to change their transportation habits
permanently due to fuel prices.

"Interestingly, the economic
upheaval appears to have had a silver lining for the environment," said
Terry Garcia, National Geographic’s Executive Vice President, Mission
Programs. "But will positive behavior changes survive when an economic
recovery starts? We hope the green behaviors that consumers are
adopting now to cut costs will become part of their permanent
lifestyles and that environmental concerns will become increasingly
important for consumers around the globe."

Individual Country Reports are available. The report for Canada is available here. That for Consumers in the United States is available here.

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