Earth Friendly Consumer Research
All over the globe, sales of sustainable products are rising, no matter the product or brand. When looking at the United States specifically, consumers that are concerned with sustainability when shopping will shell out $150 billion by 2021 on sustainable fast-moving consumer goods. The question is, what do these shoppers look like, what are the things driving them to shop with sustainability in mind, and where are they talking about their views and experiences? This brief attempts to shed light on all three areas.
We have provided the demographics of consumers in the United States that are “earth-friendly and practice sustainability”. We were able to locate seven demographics which are the typical age, gender, income level, educational level, geographic location, digital IQ/awareness, and social media usage. We have also curated nine pieces of information, data, and/or statistics surrounding why sustainability is becoming a big consumer facing trend for brands and/or companies. This part of the research was global in nature, but with a United States slant. Finally, we have presented five pieces of information, data, and/or statistics surrounding where consumers in the United States tend to share their views on sustainability and where they are active online.
Consumers That Practice Sustainability: Demographics
- Higher educated individuals in the United States are more likely to be sustainable shoppers. Additionally, these consumers tend to be living in smaller households, and they dwell in urban cities. Let’s dig into more of the demographics of this unique group below.
- Significantly more than half of households in the United States are regularly buying sustainable products (sixty-four percent). Currently, the majority of this buying trend is taking place in cities along both coasts (Boston and Portland, Oregon) but this buying behavior is marching its way across the country. Both Salt Lake City and Kansas City are experiencing an influx of consumers that are both in the Millennial cohort and are sustainability minded.
- According to Civic Science, where a person lives in might very well affect whether they prioritize making sustainable purchasing decisions. When looking directly at people that do prioritize this, forty percent live in the suburbs and thirty-five percent are domiciled in cities. Interestingly urbanites are more likely to make purchasing eco-friendly products a priority.
Digital IQ and Awareness
- According to recent Nielsen demographic data consumers that shop in a sustainable manner are more likely to be digitally engaged. They happily use one or more of their devices to not only sort through the data available about a product or company, but they use that device to make the purchase. Those sustainability shoppers tend to prioritize a lifestyle that is healthy and are sixty-seven percent more likely to be engaged digitally. These individuals also tend to shop online (11%) using a handheld device (22%), and they will even do that when they are in a brick and mortar store (12%).
- In American markets where the broader sustainability claims are now commonplace, consumers are demanding that brands/companies get much more specific. These consumers know exactly what they want and what they don’t want. They are educating themselves by reading labels, and they are highly skeptical of questionable ingredients and materials.
- Millennials in the United States are already commanding the attention of brands and companies that prioritize sustainability. Companies that effectively communicate their compassionate point of view have an opportunity to build a strong relationship with this generation.
- Millennials might be a generation that cares about sustainability, you cannot discount the fact that the generation behind them (Generation Z) is a fast rising economic demographic. “This generation has grown up very aware of environmental effects of their purchasing decisions than their older counterparts.” The 2019 Retail and Sustainability Survey revealed that Generation Z places ethical business/manufacturing as one of its important factors when deciding to buy, while in contrast, other older age groups are more concerned about the price and the availability. “However, it is important to note that generally speaking the general public is more likely to keep on purchasing a brand based on the quality of the product, rather than sustainable practices.” When it comes to price alone, more than 50 percent of Generation Z would be okay paying more for a sustainable product, which is a bit higher than the general population states (47.3%).
- According to this Civic Science report, when analyzing the different ages of those individuals who purchase eco-friendly products, Americans are pretty split. The age cohort of 35 – 54 which is Generation X are the largest group of people who both say yes they would purchase sustainable products (34%), but they also say no, they would not buy sustainable products (35%). “Millennials are the only age group (18-34) more likely to say they do prioritize environmentally friendly products (29% compared to 26%).”
- According to Civic Science, women are the gender that are more likely to buy eco-friendly products and services and make them a priority when they shop. Of the people surveyed who responded with a yes, they would buy sustainable products/services, almost sixty percent are women while forty-three percent were men. Targeted messaging aimed at females is a smart move for brands looking to market eco-friendly and sustainable products or services. On the other hand, there appears to be an opportunity to reach more men.
- Very often buying sustainable products means opening up that wallet and spending more. Surprisingly, this does not seem to be a deterrent to people who have less than $50,000 in household income before taxes, as forty-six percent of people in this income bracket reveal that they prioritize eco-friendly products. For people making over $50,000 but less than $100,000 before taxes, twenty-nine percent assert that they prioritize purchasing sustainable products.
Social Media Usage and Influence
- Fifty-four percent of consumers who buy sustainable products don’t spend a lot of time on social media. In fact, they either don’t use social media at all or they use it for less than one hour every day. However, they don’t all eschew social media platforms as forty-seven percent report that they do spend at a minimum of 1 hour a day on social media.
Consumers: Why They Value Sustainability — Brands and/or Companies
- Thirty-one percent of American consumers, according to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, reveal that they have been loyal to brands and companies that are doing their part to reduce global warming by purchasing their products in the last year. On the other hand, when a consumer perceives that the company or brand is not being sustainable, twenty-one percent will avoid their products.
- Unilever research that surveyed people in five countries, reveals that twenty-one percent of people would purposely choose brands if they clearly stated their sustainability credentials in a clear way both on the packaging itself, and in marketing materials. When drilling down to specific countries, fifty-three percent of consumers in the United Kingdom and seventy-eight percent in the United States assert that they feel better when they purchase products that are created in a sustainable manner. That number jumps to a whopping eighty-eight percent in India and eighty-five percent in both Brazil and Turkey.
- According to the 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study, a majority of consumers in the United States look for brands and companies to focus on sustainability efforts. Sixty-three percent of them don’t want businesses to wait for the government to regulate them to do it, and are hopeful businesses will just do it themselves and take a leadership role to drive social and environmental change.
- According to Nielsen, $128.5 billion was spent by American consumers by Oct. 20, 2018 on sustainable fast-moving consumer goods, That showed an increase from 2017 when that same figure was $125.4 billion. When looking at all the data, sales of sustainable products have increased by almost twenty percent since 2014 with a compound annual growth rate of 3.5% and with a nudge from Millennials.
- Consumers are focused on product sustainability in a two pronged manner, looking at not just at the environmental impact, but also the social impact. “This consumer trend has persuaded many brands and companies to reexamine their product packaging for items such as single-use plastic water bottles and changing it to recyclable plastics, cardboard, and even biodegradable materials made from mushrooms and sawdust.”
- In a survey that was commissioned by Sofidel, a manufacturer of tissue paper for hygienic and domestic use, and conducted by the well respected Harris Poll, seventy-seven percent of American consumers asserted that they would much prefer to purchase from companies and brands that make fighting global warming a priority over those that do not have a climate sustainability plan.
- In a global survey by Dutch bank ING, sixty-four percent of Americans concurred with the statement that “people in my country are excessively focused on consumption” and fifty-three percent agreed that “companies will experience consumer backlash if they do not limit their environmental impact.”
- According to Getty Images, “while eighty-one percent of people surveyed said they saw themselves as “eco-friendly”, in reality only half of them actually go out of their way to buy products from firms with strong green credentials.” Rebecca Swift, global head of creative insights at Getty Images said: “[o]ur research shows us there is an opportunity for companies and brands to help consumers bridge the gap between their attitudes and their actions.”
- When it comes to consumer drivers when it comes to purchasing items, value and ease of purchase are still two of the main reasons. “However, being eco-friendly and having a focus on sustainability is becoming a bigger factor.” A Hotwire 2019 survey revealed that forty-seven percent of global internet users had stopped buying products and services from a brand that violated their personal values. Number one on that list of personal values? Protecting the environment!
Consumers: Where They Share Their Sustainability Views Online
- “As more and more consumers are looking for brands and companies that have prioritized sustainability and are acknowledging threats to the environment, social media has played, and continues to play, a significant role in influencing consumers’ views on sustainability and the environment.” Social media is used by eco-consumers as the go-to place for research and has become an alternative to traditional search engines like Google and Bing.
- Social media is where eco-consumers go when they are seeking out knowledge, reviews, and opinions about products and services. With no United States specific numbers available, we had to resort to global numbers where 4 in 10 eco-consumers say they mainly turn to social media. “This makes them 10% more likely to do so than the average user of the internet. What is more significant is that this is much higher than the consumers who are checking out the actual brand/product’s website for information.” Consumers trust the opinions of others before they trust the company’s assertions.
- “Eco-consumers have a variety of social media platforms to choose from but Instagram, in particular, has positioned itself as the home of social shopping. Because of this domination, the platform has become the go-to among eco-consumers; who are more likely to have visited and actively engaged with content on the platform frequently.”
- In this February 2019 study, called “Modeling the Consumers Opinion Influence in Online Social Media in the Case of Eco-friendly Products”, it has been observed that an increase in online media exposure can have a high positive impact on the eco-friendly product adoption. The results have shown that an increase in media exposure can have a positive impact on the eco-friendly products adoption, in both cases, by doubling the current media exposure, the adoption time is decreased by more than 37%.
- On Twitter, what is called “conversation volume” surrounding sustainability was around 41,000 messages up to April 21st, 2020. The hashtag #SustainableFashion grew seven percent from January 2020 to February 2020. Pinterest saw searches for “eco-friendly living” grow ninety-three percent and “zero waste products” grow one hundred and eight percent which spurred the company to create a brand new sustainable product collection in the Pinterest Shop to mark Earth Day.