Consumers Need More Green Awareness - Research Brief

‘Gradual Greening’ of U.S. Tech Consumers


New York, NY– ‘Green’ or environmentally friendly policies and programs are becoming more top of mind for U.S. consumers when making technology related purchase decisions, but few are aware of specific policies, according to the annual Ipsos Green Technology report. The survey shows that few technology purchasing consumers are aware of specific environmental policies and practices of technology firms, despite the efforts of companies and the accolades in the media.


“Technology firms don’t have particularly strong consumer ratings regarding green initiatives,” says Mike Bellmont, Senior Vice President with Ipsos MediaCT, the sponsor of the research. “A lot of work has been done to build and institute environmental policies and processes but the information still needs to reach consumers in terms they can relate to.”


While consumer awareness is low, tech companies are being praised for their environmental activities by others. A recent story from Newsweek [] released ratings of the top US Green companies, ranking Fortune 500 firms based on policies and programs put in place to lessen the overall environmental impacts of their business processes and product consumption. The Newsweek story examined the reputation of these firms among CEOs, academics, and environmental experts. Green ratings among this group were dominated by well known technology firms, and led by top computer manufactures HP and Dell, due in part to their leadership in reducing emissions, removing toxic substances and reduced energy consumption.


This noted, U.S. consumer awareness of environmental policies and programs is still low for many companies. Approximately four in ten consumers did not associate any technology brand tested with having green or environmentally friendly business practices. However, there has been progress since 2007, when 55% did not associate any technology companies. Even Apple and Microsoft, the greenest rated consumer firms, were only associated with environmentally friendly business practices by fewer than one in four consumers. Even fewer are aware of specific policies of these firms.


The lack of awareness is most pronounced for Intel, which is well known by environmental experts for policies of renewable energy, a focus on energy efficiency of their products, and reducing waste and use of toxic materials. However, only 7% of US consumers associated Intel with having environmentally friendly business practices or policies, highlighting the lack of consumer awareness.


“We have seen some brands make significant improvements in their green perceptions since we began tracking, with LG as the biggest mover since 2007—this suggests that brands can impact their perception through their policies and messaging,” explains Bellmont.


Are consumers considering the environment when they buy technology products? The survey results show that the proportion of consumers who claim they investigated or considered the environmental aspects of their purchase remains low overall; with fewer than half saying they considered these issues in their most recent purchase. Consumers remain more inclined to consider the environmental impact when purchasing big ticket items, such as automobiles and large household appliances.


According to Bellmont, “With the exception of a few dedicated consumers, green considerations have yet to significantly impact smaller technology decisions such as mobile phones and MP3 players, but we expect that to change over time.”


When Ipsos MediaCT asked consumers to rate the impact that specific green practices and policies might have on their technology purchase decisions, results show that consumers are impacted most by environmental policies and features which claim to reduce energy consumption – and therefore the overall cost of use. “Especially in an economic downturn, it is no surprise that consumers are looking for ways to save money, and therefore more focus is placed on green practices that help them do just that,” adds Bellmont. “Nearly three out of four consumers claim that devices that are ‘Energy Star’ efficient, and devices that do not drain energy, would influence their purchase decisions.”


Further, more than two-thirds (67%) of respondents reported that free electronic recycling programs offered by the manufacturer/retailer would influence their decision when making a technology purchase. However, only 38% said they are aware of these programs and only 8% say they have taken part in these programs.


“One in three consumers say they are willing to pay more for a green positioned product, so these perceptions can positively impact the bottom line for companies in the technology sector,” concludes Bellmont. “Green has been a widely used buzz word over the past several years, and the technology industry is no exception. As consumers continue to value green initiatives and become more aware of the green programs technology companies have in place, manufacturers and retailers of tech products and services will have an opportunity to leverage green practices as a competitive advantage.”


The Ipsos Green Technology Report is in its third year of tracking and monitoring green attitudes and purchase behaviors of online American as they relate to technology brands and products. The survey covers perceptions of technology brands, awareness among a variety of green business practices and policies, the impact that being green has on technology related purchase decisions, and other topics including green perceptions of retailers, willingness to pay for green positioned products, and trusted sources of consumer information and ratings.

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