Is Anybody Watching? The Green Gap Survey Reveals Consumers Want Regulation of Environmental Claims

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greengap.jpgSome scary truths about consumers’ assumptions could lead to a “green” backlash concludes The Green Gap Survey, released this week by Cone LLC and The Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship.
We in the business of making environmentally friendly and natural product know that little regulation exists around the terms, “green,” “environmentally friendly,” and “natural.” But, consumers don’t and are, perhaps naively, trusting.

  • 47 percent trust companies to tell them the truth in environmental messaging
  • 45 percent believe companies are accurately communicating information about their impact on the environment
  • 61 percent of Americans say they understand the environmental terms companies use in their advertising

The survey found that almost half of those surveyed believing that anything marked “green” or “environmentally friendly” was good for the environment. Not quite a quarter really understood use of the terms in any meaningful way. (Who were these guys? I’m not sure I understand!)

“The gap creates significant risk of embarrassment for companies and disillusionment for consumers,” says Mike Lawrence, executive vice president of corporate responsibility, Cone LLC. “Activists are closely monitoring green claims and can quickly share information online about the actual environmental impact of a product. The result can be accusations that a company is engaging in ‘greenwashing’ and is misleading the public.”

Fortunately for eco-entrepreneurs, consumers seem to be interested in policing the use of misleading terms. The survey found that consumers want regulation. Over 75% want certification by third party organizations and/or government regulation.

That puts large and small manufacturers and consumers on the same page. Just in time for the FTC, Eco In The Market workshop on April 30th. The results should be interesting.

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