Earth Day 2015 (April 22) has come and gone. But organizations – and consumers – know that the planet needs attention more than one day a year. It also appears that consumers want businesses to play an active environmental role, with nearly 70 percent of consumers saying they are aware of the environmental practices of companies with which they spend money.
To get a sense of consumers’ other thoughts on the environment and the role business plays, FleishmanHillard TRUE surveyed 504 U.S. adults, asking about purchase influences, the desire for dialogue and more.
Consumers Want a Climate Conversation
Respondents overwhelmingly (71 percent) say they “think it’s important for businesses to openly discuss climate change and their involvement in addressing it.” Only 10 percent indicated they don’t believe in climate change.
Consumers definitely want to know what steps are being taken to protect the environment and why. Unsurprisingly, consumers had higher expectations for industries with the closest ties to the environment – led by energy, with 88 percent of respondents considering it important for the industry to have an environmental plan in place; food and agriculture, 85 percent; and manufacturing, 81 percent. What may be a surprise is that healthcare and technology – at 79 percent each – are barely behind manufacturing.
But all sectors are held to a high standard. In fact, a majority of respondents indicated that it is important or very important that each of the eight industries studied have programs in place, with professional services – at 52 percent – receiving the lowest level of environmental expectations.
Not only do consumers want companies to be involved, they are tracking involvement. Two-thirds are aware of at least some companies’ environmental practices.
Repairing the Environment – and Reputation
If a company is involved in a negative environmental issue, a company will be given a chance to repair its reputation (typically if it’s also working to repair nature). In fact, 82 percent of consumers report there is an opportunity to regain loyalty based on the actions taken by a company. However, this includes 34 percent of respondents who will support a company and its environmental efforts only if the business had programs in place before the crisis occurred. Otherwise, it just appears to be a PR stunt.
How Do Environmental Efforts Compare With Other Efforts?
While the numbers show that people feel it’s important for companies to have some environmental efforts in place – regardless of sectors – how does the environment stack up compared with other corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts?
Nearly 80 percent believe the environment/sustainability is important to be included in a company’s CSR plan, trailing only a company’s treatment of employees. But all areas studied were seen as important to respondents, with local community philanthropy coming in last – still with 61 percent saying it is important.
It’s fairly well known that CSR has a bearing on purchase decisions, but this analysis showcases which efforts have the largest impact. Ethical labor practices, followed by environmental then philanthropic, are identified as the most important influences on purchase decisions.