Talk is cheap, but buying green products apparently is not

Duncan Murray

Reusable cloth baby diapers drying on a clothes line.

A recent study by online market research firm Dynata found that 67 per cent of Australians actively choose to buy products from companies that are environmentally responsible.

Somewhat confusingly, 63 percent of respondents to the same survey said they find environmentally-friendly products and services to be beyond their budget.

So which is it Australia? Are you paying for green products or not?

Sustainability expert and chairman of Greenbiz, Joel Makower may help provide some clarity. He says that over the past decade public surveys have consistently found consumers misrepresent their willingness to pay more for green products.

Makower went so far as to call for an end to green marketing, claiming that despite the majority of consumers saying they choose to buy green, environmentally preferable products in most markets attract only a tiny percentage of buyers.

While this assessment of consumer behaviour appears somewhat bleak, there may be more at play here than raw apathy or selfishness.

The number of consumers who say they seriously doubt ‘green’ claims has increased significantly with the rise of green marketing, leading 88 per cent of consumers in one survey to say they were wary of the terms ‘eco’, ‘green’ and even ‘environmentally friendly’.

So perhaps we should applaud the 63 percent of Australians who told Dynata they would still be inspired to consume a brand’s environmentally friendly products and services if they purported to benefit wildlife or the environment.

Or the 72 percent who said they would choose the electricity in their home to be powered by green energy if they had a free choice.

After all just over three in four Australians say they have already participated in the green economy through home energy improvements. Although this is primarily through the set-and-forget method of buying energy-efficient LED bulbs and other appliances.

If consumers cannot yet be entirely convinced to vote with their feet, perhaps governments can be convinced to fight for their vote.

According to Dynata’s study, eight out of ten Australians believe that an effective climate change response requires action by the government, and a further 75 per cent said the government should have financial incentive programmes which reward citizens for adopting green energy.

Furthermore, 66 per cent said they believe that economies will gain more than they lose from investing in renewable energy and 60 per cent say more jobs will come from a transition to green energy than will be lost.

Dynata’s Global Consumer Trends Report: The Green Economy surveyed 1,022 people in Australia, as well as respondents in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Spain, UK, US and China.