According to a new survey conducted by National Geographic and Globescan, consumers in India, Brazil, and China scored the highest (and those in the U.S. the lowest) for green behavior. The survey polled 17,000 adults in 17 countries, and included a mix of developed and developing countries.
National Geographic writes on the survey design: “This quantitative consumer study of 17,000 consumers in a total of 17 countries (14 in 2008) asked about such behavior as energy use and conservation, transportation choices, food sources, the relative use of green products versus traditional products, attitudes towards the environment and sustainability, and knowledge of environmental issues. A group of international experts helped us determine the behaviors that were most critical to investigate.”
On the top ten “greenest” consumers: “the top-scoring consumers of 2009 are in the developing economies of India, Brazil and China. Argentina and South Korea, both new additions to the survey, are virtually tied for fourth, followed by Mexicans, Hungarians and Russians. Ranks ninth through thirteenth, the latter a three-way tie, are all occupied by Europeans, as well as Australians in twelfth. Japanese, U.S. and Canadian consumers again score lowest.”
National Geographic and Globescan conclude that some consumers act consciously out of enviromental concerns, whereas others seek to cut costs, which has the effect of providing an enviromental benefit. “The results suggest that both cost considerations and environmental concerns may have motivated consumers to adopt more environmentally sustainable behavior over the past year. For example, consumers in 11 of the 14 countries surveyed in 2008 and 2009 are more likely this year to report that they keep their heating and cooling settings in their households lower to save energy. The practice of washing laundry in cold water rather than hot to save energy has also become more widespread in nine countries surveyed in both years. Preference for buying second-hand rather than new household items has become more widespread, as has as the preference for repairing broken items to extend their useful lives.”
However, in many countries, the percentage consciously engaging in green behavior seems be growing. “Environmental concern is reflected in consumer behavior. For example, the percentage of consumers who say they buy certain products specifically because they are better for the environment than other products, an action unlikely to consistently result in savings to the consumer, increased in five countries in 2009, and decreased in only one.”
Pollution and climate change are major concerns across the developing and developed worlds. Consumers in developing countries facing chocking air pollution rates had higher rates of concern about this, given that they must deal with it daily. “Air pollution, climate change/global warming and water pollution rank fourth through sixth on a list of 12 global concerns, just behind the economy, fuel costs and poverty. Roughly two-thirds of consumers say they are concerned about each of these environmental issues. Six in 10 consumers across the 17 surveyed countries agree that people need to consume less in order to improve the environment for future generations (only 12 percent disagree), showing that consumers recognize the connection between their actions and the environment.”
“Consumers across many countries are now more likely to engage in energy-saving activities, such as adjusting thermostat settings (up in 11 countries), minimizing their use of fresh water (up in nine countries), and washing laundry in cold water to save energy (up in nine countries). This is due to both cost and environmental considerations. For example, when the three in ten consumers who say they reduced their consumption of energy for heating or cooling their homes over the past year are asked why they did so, eight in ten say that cost was one of the top two reasons. Four in ten say that their environmental concerns were behind the change in behavior.”
“Transportation-related behavior is generally more environmentally friendly in developing countries where consumers tend more than others to walk, cycle or use public transportation, or choose to live close to their most common destination. Russians, Chinese and South Koreans are most likely to use public transportation regularly, while Australians, Canadians and especially Americans are the least likely to say that they do.”
“Consumers in seven surveyed countries, the United States, Australia, Great Britain, France, Japan, Mexico and Russia, decreased their consumption of bottled water—suggesting that awareness of the environmental issues associated with bottled water consumption issues has increased. Swedes, at just 6 percent, are the least likely to drink bottled water every day. Germans remain the most likely to drink bottled water — 68 percent do so daily.”
“Avoidance of environmentally unfriendly products, a choice that is not necessarily motivated by cost savings, is up among consumers in six countries. Indians, Brazilians and Mexicans show the biggest year-on-year increase in this area. These consumers, along with Chinese, also are the most likely to say they buy environmentally friendly products. Americans, Hungarians, British, Spanish and Japanese are least likely to do so. However, the percentage of consumers who say they choose environmentally friendly products over others has increased in five countries and has decreased in just one (Russia).”
Interestingly, no consumers from any major African country were included the survey. Consumers in larger countries like Nigeria, Egypt, or South Africa could have added diversity to the findings. Additionally, for the 1,000 citizens surveyed in each country, the survey designers polled approximately thirty percent high-income, thirty percent middle-income, and thirty percent low-income respondents. In most countries, the high-income citizens would be far less than the thirty percent of the total population. Counting them as thirty percent in each country’s responses could have the effect of skewing results towards higher-income consumers’ behavior.
Read the highlights report and the full (290 plus page) report. Also, check out the Greendex Calculator, which is comprised of the questions used in the survey, to calculate how green you are as a consumer.