Global Warming Not Center Stage

September 08, 2011

Consumers still concerned about global warming, but it's not their main concern. Find out what is on top of mind for consumers and the environment.

About a month ago, the Environmental Working Group came out with the Meat Eaters Guide to Climate Change + Health, a report that found many surprising facts about meat consumptions and its affects on both health and the environment; most notably, that if you skipped a steak dinner once a week with your four person family, it would have the equivalent effect as taking your car off the road for three months! 
Despite these findings and more, consumers are still not convinced that global warming should be a top priority. The same is true for some weathercasters, half of which don’t believe in global warming, and fewer than one-third who believe that climate change was "caused mostly by human activities."  Even further, more than a quarter of the weathercasters in the George Mason University and the University of Texas at Austin survey agreed with the statement "Global warming is a scam."
A recent Nielsen survey found that consumer concern about climate change and global warming takes a back seat compared to other environmental issues, such as air and water pollution, water shortages, packaging waste, and use of pesticides. The survey titled, 2011 Global Online Environment & Sustainability Survey, queried over 25,000 Internet respondents in 51 countries.
Sixty-nine percent say they are concerned about climate change/global warming, but concern for other environmental issues are taking a higher priority in the minds of consumers. Three out of four global consumers rated air pollution (77%) and water pollution (75%) as top concerns. But the areas where concern is mounting fastest among 73 percent of consumers is worry over the use of pesticides, packaging waste, and water shortages.
The US is one of the biggest skeptics, recording one of the steepest declines in concern about climate change/global warming from 2007 to 2011, dropping 14 percentage points. According to the Nielsen study, today, a little less than half of Americans say they are concerned about climate change. On the other hand, Latin Americans remain the most concerned about climate change/global warming, at 90 percent.
Price trumps other concerns; 83 percent of consumers say that it is important that companies implement programs to improve the environment, but only 22 percent say they will pay more for an eco-friendly product. Willingness to pay extra for these eco-friendly goods is highest in the Middle East/Africa where one-third of consumers are willing…versus North America, where only 12 percent of both Canadians and Americans say they will pay extra for eco-friendly products.
So what actions should consumers and companies take? The surveyed consumers have mixed feelings about the environmental impact and benefits of particular sustainable practices. Sixty-four percent of consumers, globally, indicated they believe organic products are good for the environment, but there is a wide regional disparity. Eighty percent of Latin Americans think organic products are environmentally-friendly, contrary to 58 percent of Europe and 49 percent of North America.
Recycled packaging and energy efficient products are seen as the most broadly helpful. Eighty-three percent believe that manufacturers using recycled packaging and producing energy efficient products and appliances have a positive impact on the environment. What about other factors? Firty-nine percent believe local products have a positive impact, and fair trade products 51 percent.
It's key for the industry to work towards being more environmentally friendly despite consumer doubts. It can't hurt to make an effort to lessen your environmental impact.