It is more important than ever to better understand consumers’ behaviors, expectations, and attitudes toward environmental sustainability because:
- The green market revolution will reshape everything we do. From what we eat to how we get around, how we heat and cool our environments, how we finance and protect our assets, how we plug in or how we make products, the new industrial revolution is not just about renewable energy and batteries.
- Consumers will have to change their behaviors — either by choice or by force. As routines are disrupted and governments change laws to protect their lands and citizens — not to mention climate disasters, skyrocketing prices for fossil fuel energy sources, and the exploitation of natural resources in manufacturing all becoming increasingly visible to consumers — there’s no doubt that many behaviors will change.
The reality is that there is no single green or sustainable consumer. Values and attitudes vary greatly within the same age group or across different countries. It is critical to base your strategy on nuanced facts and to segment your customer base into distinct groups. To help you understand how green products and services influence shoppers’ choices and how consumers’ attitudes and behaviors around environmental sustainability are changing, Forrester grouped consumers into four segments according to their answers to three questions:
- Do they regularly seek out information before buying green products and to understand what they can do to be green?
- Do they actually purchase green products even when it is less convenient to do so?
- Do they see the environment as a secondary factor after price or convenience in their purchasing decision process?
The result? Consumers are evolving into four distinct groups as they realize that their consumption habits affect both the environment and their daily lives:
- Non-Greens don’t consider themselves environmentally conscious. They represent 23% of the US online population.
- Dormant Greens largely don’t see the environment as an important purchase criterion. They represent 37% of the US online population.
- Convenient Greens value convenience over the environment. They represent 22% of the US online population.
- Active Greens are environmentally conscious consumers. They represent 17% of the US online population.
Globally, we found that:
- While consumers in Europe-7* exhibit greener behaviors, perceptions are evolving quickly in the US. The percentage of active greens is significantly higher in Europe, while the percentage of non-greens is significantly lower. Although it is not surprising to see US and Australian consumers trailing behind on average green consumer behaviors and attitudes, it is key to be nuanced and to go beyond averages. According to research from Yale University (International Public Opinion on Climate Change, 2022), the percentage of climate skeptics in the US went down significantly, even if it still represents about 20%. A more nuanced approach at a European level also showcases that behaviors and attitudes are evolving, with Italy, Spain, and France leading the pack among active green consumers, while Swedish and German consumers do not necessarily demonstrate the greenest behaviors.
- Many consumers, both young and old, care about environmental issues. Forrester’s 2022 data shows that more than half of Europe-7 online adults say they would like to understand more about the impact of their purchases on the environment. Contrary to popular belief, 49% of Baby Boomers and 45% of the Silent Generation agree with this. In the US, 54% of Millennials consider themselves environmentally conscious — above the US average of 49% — while 48% of Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation believe the same.
- Age is not the key driver of green attitudes and behaviors. In the more mature European countries, the correlation between age and green behaviors and attitudes is less significant in the US, demonstrating the fact that the phenomenon is now more widespread. Younger generations, however, especially in Europe and the US, are more likely to demand full transparency on how brands impact the planet’s resources. As younger consumers gain purchasing power, the winning brands will be those that lead with environmental messaging and actions — and that make it easy to buy from them. Sustainability behaviors can only, and will, grow in importance.
Whether you agree or not with Al Gore’s recent wake-up call at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, business leaders should be wise to increasingly segment their customer base to:
- Measure customers’ propensity to buy sustainable products and pay a green premium.
- Prioritize environmental actions and differentiate themselves from their competitors.
- Know — and get ahead of — the specific risks associated with greenwashing.
Clients who want to better understand consumers’ green behaviors and attitudes can access the full report here or schedule a guidance session with Sucharita Kodali or myself.
*For this research, Forrester surveyed 11,700 online consumers across France, the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, Sweden, and the Netherlands.