Majority of Executives and Consumers Think Businesses Not Committed To Sustainability

The majority of executives and consumers polled in a survey in July do not think the majority of businesses are committed to “going green.” Only 29 percent of executives and 16 percent of consumers polled think that the majority of businesses are committed to “going green.” Almost half (45 percent) of executives and 48 percent of consumers think that only “some” are businesses committed to sustainability.

Harris Interactive polled 2,605 U.S. adults over 18 years old, and 304 Fortune 1000 executives for Gibbs & Soell Public Relations. Gibbs & Soell is the eighth largest independent public relations agency in the U.S.

Ron Loch, Senior Vice-President for Greentech& Sustainability at Gibbs & Soell said, “While surveys consistently show consumers have a preference, and even a willingness to pay a premium, for green products, the question is often asked without the full context of performance and convenience.”

The majority (78 percent) of executives cited an insufficient return on investment as an obstacle to “going green,” and 71 percent cite consumers’ unwillingness to pay a premium for green products or services. More than two in five executives (45 percent) cited a difficulty in evaluating sustainability across the entire life cycle of a product as an obstacle.

“I believe executives feel that at the point of purchase, performance and convenience trump sustainability for most consumers,” said Loch. “If there is at least parity, then ‘green’ can be an effective differentiator for which consumers may even pay a slight premium. If the product doesn’t deliver the desired results or requires additional steps or equipment, then it probably won’t succeed regardless of how green it is.”

More than two-thirds of executives (69 percent) said their companies have people responsible for sustainability, but the majority only added responsibilities for green efforts to the primary duties of a team of individuals (35%), or a C-suite or another senior level position (15%). Only about one in 10 (12 percent) said their company has a C-suite or other senior level position dedicated only to sustainability. Over a quarter (31 percent) said there is no one responsible at their company for “going green” initiatives.

Loch said the important thing for marketers to take from the survey is to not “let enthusiasm for promoting green features and benefits result in not talking enough about the product’s performance.” He added that consumers “still need to understand the full value proposition before they’re going to shell out their hard-earned dollars.”

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by

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