New research from environmental tech firm GreenPrint finds that two-thirds (66 percent) of Americans—and 80 percent of Americans aged 18-34—are willing to pay more for sustainable products vs. less sustainable competitors.
However, the firm’s second Business of Sustainability Index also reveals 78 percent of Americans don’t know how to identify environmentally friendly companies, despite wanting to buy from them. To confirm a company’s environmental friendliness, 50 percent agree that clear language on products is important, and 46 percent say third-party or independent source confirmation is important.
Among those that shop for environmentally friendly products, 72 percent use labels or third-party certifications on the product’s packaging to confirm if it’s environmentally friendly.
“Americans are very clear—they want sustainable solutions and are willing to pay more for them, if only they knew how to find them,” said Pete Davis, CEO and co-founder of GreenPrint, in a news release. “We are in the midst of a significant acceleration in public demand for sustainability, and companies that do not meet that demand will quickly fall behind their competitors, especially with young Americans.”
Growing trust gap between Americans and corporations
The study also revealed a significant trust gap between Americans and corporations when it comes to sustainability. Only 38 percent of Americans believe corporations most or all of the time when they make claims of environmental friendliness, a noticeable drop from 47 percent in GreenPrint’s 2021 study.
Overall, 41 percent say American corporations are doing a poor job at reducing their carbon footprint. When it comes to demonstrating an actionable commitment to becoming more environmentally friendly, 56 percent of Americans say airlines and fleet services are not doing well, followed by the energy/gas industry (48 percent).
“Over the past year, public trust in the authenticity and effectiveness of companies’ sustainability efforts has eroded significantly,” said Davis. “This puts businesses making genuine progress in a bind because their actions are less likely to be recognized. To win back trust, the data clearly shows Americans want companies to validate their sustainability claims through independent sources, both on the corporate level and for their products.”
Other key findings from GreenPrint’s second Business of Sustainability Index include:
- 75 percent of Americans are concerned about the environmental impact of the products they buy.
- 64 percent of Americans would be willing to pay more for gas if the carbon emissions from their purchases were offset through sustainability efforts, for Americans ages 18-34 this jumps to 75 percent. When the survey was conducted the national gas price average was $4.17.
- 69 percent say a product’s environmental friendliness is important to their purchasing decision.
- 70 percent agree climate events from the past year (wildfires, floods, air quality dangers, extreme heat, drought, etc.) have made them more likely to purchase environmentally friendly products. Of this group, 38 percent were not buying those types of products before, but recent climate events have encouraged them to do so.
- 45 percent believe it’s hard to maintain environmentally friendly purchasing habits.
- 73 percent would sign up for a company’s voluntary rewards or loyalty program if it helped reduce the carbon footprint of their purchases.
- 64 percent would like to own a credit card that automatically offsets a percentage of the environmental impact of their purchases.
- 60 percent are more likely to buy stock in a company that is environmentally friendly versus one that is not.
This index and its future editions will continue to track sentiment around sustainability in the economy—how climate consciousness impacts consumer preference and perceptions of companies and their products, as well as the overall effectiveness of the sustainability benchmarking ecosystem across various sectors and demographics.
This Xcelerant survey was fielded from March 7 to March 8, 2022, among a demographically balanced and nationally representative sample of 1,062 U.S. adults 18 years of age and older. To ensure consistent and accurate representation of the U.S. general population 18 years of age and older, data was weighted by the following variables: sex, age, geographic region, race/ethnicity, and education.