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Men Less Likely to Buy Into 'Green' Movement

If you’ve got a so-called "green" product you’re trying to sell, you may have to work extra-hard to convince certain segments of the population that your business is legit.

That’s because men and those over the age of 55 are much less likely to buy into the environmentally-friendly green movement . That’s the finding of a recent survey from Crowd Science's Just Ask! that finds that men are nearly twice as likely to believe that buying products marketed as green makes no difference.

The study shows that 19 percent of men — versus only 10 percent of women — hold this view. Similarly, those over the age of 55 are much more likely than those who are younger (25 percent versus 13 percent) to hold this same belief. Men are also much less likely to check that their purchases come from companies that brand their products as "ethical" than women (30 percent versus 42 percent) and twice as likely to believe that the green movement is just a marketing ploy (16 percent versus 8 percent).

The survey finds that education also plays a key role in understanding green behavior, as 21 percent of people with a post-graduate education will pay substantially more for green products, as opposed to 12 percent of those with a basic undergraduate background or less.

"We're seeing an interesting gap in what we call 'green shopitudes' when you consider gender, age, and education," said Sandra Marshall, vice president of research for Crowd Science.  "Women and younger age groups appear to be more eco-centric when it comes to shopping practices," Marshall said.

Green dining

These findings can be seen as a qualifier to another green spending study released this week that finds that diners are willing to spend more to eat in restaurants touted as following green practices.

That study, conducted by researchers at Ohio State University, found that more than eight out of 10 restaurant patrons surveyed in Columbus, Ohio, said they would be willing to pay more to dine at green restaurants. More than seven out of 10 patrons said it was good for restaurants to protect the environment.

The only problem is that very few restaurants market themselves as green or environmentally friendly, said Jay Kandampully, co-author of the study and professor of consumer sciences at Ohio State University.

“It is clear that green practices could be beneficial for restaurants. Customers want their restaurants to be environmentally friendly and say they’re willing to pay more for it,” Kandampully said.

Green certification

Part of the reason consumers may be skeptical of environmentally friendly claims could be the lack of consistent package and labeling methods, according to still another report. Figuring out exactly what products, services and companies are truly environmentally friendly can be difficult.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will close its public comment period for its Green Guides, which would create standards that needed to be met in order for companies to be able to claim their practices are green.  According to new research from EnviroMedia Social Marketing, 65 percent of Americans would prefer just one seal for green products over the hundreds now that are causing confusion amongst consumers.

If approved, the Green Guides would restrict renewable energy claims — an area of confusion for consumers, according to research results. When asked, “Is coal a renewable energy source?” 25 percent of Americans said yes and another 15 percent said they didn’t know.

It’s increasingly difficult to determine if a product is truly green, the researchers found. Certifications such as the government-backed program ENERGY STAR help consumers address energy efficiency. However, new standards for water use, packaging, recyclability, toxics and carbon impact are competing for attention and space on the product label.

The research shows Americans most trust a third-party certification system, including the Good Housekeeping Seal, Green Seal or Underwriters Laboratory as the primary enforcer of manufacturers’ green claims.

“There are more than 350 labels or seals of approval that offer to help consumers know whether a product is green or healthy, which is classic information overload for the consumer’s brain,” said Kevin Tuerff, cofounder of EnviroMedia. “Having one comprehensive national seal to identify the best green products would limit consumer confusion and also hold advertisers accountable to one set of standards.”
EnviroMedia commissioned Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) to conduct a national survey of 1,022 Americans. The findings show:

  • Two-thirds of Americans (65 percent) say having one seal for all green products would give them more confidence that they were buying green. Only 26 percent said it would not.
  • More Americans (41 percent) think that the primary enforcer of green product claims should be a third-party certification system like the Good Housekeeping Seal, beating out the FTC at 26 percent. Only 16 percent think the ad industry should police itself.

“That's exactly what the industry wants, but it’s obviously not working,” said Valerie Davis, cofounder of EnviroMedia. “If you want to see real examples of why it’s not working, visit greenwashingindex.com.

Advertisers who have been stretching the truth about their products’ environmental benefits know better.

Or at least they should know how the products they advertise are made and packaged.”

Dec. 10 marks the end of the public comment period on the Green Guides. The public may comment at ftc.gov/green.