Four areas that stump consumers when it comes to sustainability.
Most of us think about the environmental impact of the things we buy. Is that dish soap phosphate free? Or is that paper made with recycled content? This information holds power and it affects our decisions to purchase one item over another.
But findings from a new survey in the U.S. showed that while respondents definitely thought about sustainability when buying things, they were perhaps a little confused when it came to the details.
The national survey, conducted by Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS) Global, polled a representative sample of 2,500 adults and found four areas where companies interested in talking about sustainability should provide more guidance:
1. Half just look at the package and don’t think about the raw materials used.
The survey found that Americans are at least somewhat concerned about air pollution (77 %), landfill and waste (70 %) and deforestation (69 %). More than half of Americans try to act on these concerns by looking for products whose packages have visible symbols indicating they were produced responsibly. However, only 51 % of Americans often think about the raw materials that are used to make the products they purchase. In other words, people care about the effects but don’t dive deep into the causes.
2. Only a quarter really know what should go into a recycling bin.
Americans love the idea of recycling – but blue bin confusion is a widespread phenomenon. Sure, 83 % of respondents recognized the recycling symbol, but only 26 % were completely sure about which products and materials they can actually put in the bin. Consumers need to take the next step, moving from good intentions to tangible outcomes.
3. Half think buying recycled paper is the best way to protects forests.
49 % of respondents believe that, when it comes to purchasing paper, buying recycled content is the best way to ensure the protection of forests. But recycled fiber is only one part of the equation. Responsibly produced virgin fiber is also an important piece of the system. Although Americans may not recognize it, certified fiber actually plays a key role in preserving forests, because third-party organizations such as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) have robust guidelines in place to ensure responsible harvesting. As a result of sustainable management practices, strict government regulations and robust enforcement structures, total forest area in the U.S. has been stable for the past century and the annual deforestation rate in Canada is less than 0.02%, which due mostly to non-forestry related activities.
4. There’s no consensus on where to get sustainability advice.
Americans definitely look for advice about what products are the most environmentally friendly, but there’s a lack of consensus about who is best suited to provide answers. Respondents rely on a variety of sources, ranging from peers to online news sites. 21 % listen to environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs); 24 % trust companies that have responsible track records; 31 % lean on their friends and family members; 26 % believe in third-party certifiers. With all of these competing voices giving potentially different advice, the right decision is often hard to discern.