For The Green Consumer: A New Scientist Report on ‘Eco-Friendly’ Companies

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Consumers are going ‘green’ when it comes to consumer spending, and focus has shifted to companies known for protecting the environment. Yet, do they deserve the ‘eco’-stamp of approval? Corporations are capitalizing on this newfound marketing power by promoting products with the now ubiquitous terms ‘eco-friendly’, ‘energy-efficient’, or perhaps ‘organic’, which has become a profitable market within the produce industry. Yet, New Scientist recently questioned whether ‘eco-friendly’ companies truly are as green as we think?

Findings suggest not, according to a new study by the New Scientist team in partnership with Earthsense and Trucost, based in New York and London, respectively. After polling US consumers on perceptions related to the ‘greenness’ of companies, and modelling data of corporate global environmental performance, results indicated no correlation between the overall scores, suggesting a gap in understanding among U.S. consumers about companies’ environmental impact relative to perceptions of its ‘greenness’. New Scientist gives an example : “Some of the greatest confusion surrounds the food and beverage sector. Of the 115 firms we analysed, producers of food and drinks stood out as having the highest environmental impact – significantly different from media firms, retailers, technology companies and manufacturers of personal and household goods. Yet there were no significant differences in consumer perceptions between the sectors. In general, US consumers fail to recognise the high environmental costs associated with agriculture and food processing.”

With new environmental rating systems in development for the public to assess the true environmental footprint of various products, soon companies will need to respond to consumer demand for full disclosure of its environmental practices. New Scientist concludes, “For companies that are currently trading off green reputations that they don’t deserve, there may soon be no place to hide.”

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