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Greenwashing Still Making Consumers Weary of Green Claims, According to Harris Interactive

Posted: April 22, 2013

Does an uptick in the economy give people more reason to care about Mother Earth? That is what a March 2013 Harris Poll of 2,276 U.S. adults (ages 18+) interviewed online set to find out as Earth Day quickly approaches. Turns out that concern for the current state, and future, of the environment is on the rise in 2013 (38% vs. 31% in 2012), just as economic indicators point to all time stock market highs and a solid housing market recovery. However, as Americans start to feel better about reaching into their pockets, they still may not be ready to dish out the extra green on organic items. Turns out that more than half (59%) agree that labeling food or other products as organic is just an excuse to charge more.

"What surprised us most was that while Americans are showing more concern for the environment, they aren't necessarily willing to pay more to do anything about it," said Mike de Vere, president of the Harris Poll. "While Americans feel better about the economy, many are wary of the 'greenwashing' concept that gives companies a chance to cash in on consumers who want to help the planet but are confused by all the eco-friendly jargon."

Going green continues to be a gray area, as consumers try to decide where it makes sense to incorporate it into their lives. Americans also are divided on how easy, or not so easy, it is to live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle, with nearly equal percentages of U.S. adults perceiving it as difficult (49%) and easy (47%). When asked about sentiments towards going green, respondents indicated the following:

  • Eight in ten Americans (80%) say they will seek out green products, but only three in ten (30%) are willing to pay extra for them.
  • 60% of Americans prefer to use environmentally friendly cleaning supplies because of the chemicals contained in traditional cleaning products.
  • As noted, the majority of Americans agree that labeling food or other products "organic" is just an excuse to charge more (59%).
  • Men are the most skeptical about organic, with 63% agreeing that the labeling of food or other products as organic is an excuse to charge more, versus 54% of women.
  • Overall, efforts to be green seem to have leveled off, with nearly two-thirds (63%) making the same amount of effort to be environmentally conscious as a year ago, up considerably from 2009 (51%).

More information and data from this poll from Harris Interactive is available here.