The power of perception

Research has provided further insight into what consumers view as 'being green'.

UK consumers view retailers as being among the most environmentally friendly brands, according to a global survey of consumer attitudes.

The comprehensive research, shared exclusively with Marketing by WPP agencies Landor, Cohn & Wolfe and Penn Schoen Berland, with specialist green consultancy Esty Environmental Partners, spanned eight countries and more than 9000 consumers.

Respondents were asked to score brands in several different sectors on their 'greenness'. In the UK, eight of the 10 scoring most highly were retailers. Number-one brand The Body Shop is familiar to shoppers as an environmental pioneer. Marks & Spencer, which has supported its green credentials with the high-profile 'Plan A' CSR strategy and uses the line 'Doing the right thing', was ranked third, behind smoothies-to-veg pots brand Innocent.

Positioning perk

Ian Wood, head of strategy for Landor's London and European operations, says the survey's findings reveal an interesting trend in what 'being green' means to consumers. In some cases, it seems it has less to do with actions and more with general brand perceptions.

'In people's minds there is not always a distinction between corporate social responsibility issues and products that are associated with health or purity,' claims Wood. This, he says, explains why brands such as Dove, which has not been marketed on a green platform by owner Unilever, has scored so highly. The same could apply to Innocent.

Despite energy companies' heavy investment in environment-related marketing, none made it into the top 10. E.ON, which has recently based its advertising on an honesty proposition, was ranked top in the energy category.

Of the countries surveyed, the UK emerged as one of the nations where consumers cared less about the environment than the economy. When asked whether the environment or economy concerned them more, nearly 68% opted for the latter. In contrast, just 25% of Brazilian consumers chose the economy. Only in the US, where consumers have traditionally been more sceptical about climate change, was the proportion opting for the environment smaller than the UK, with just 17% citing this as of most concern.

Similarly, the research revealed that providing good value, being trustworthy and offering good customer care were seen as more important than being environmentally conscious.

This apparent apathy should not be read as a complete lack of interest in the environment among UK consumers, however. Almost eight out of 10 (78%) respondents said it was an important factor in their purchasing decisions. In addition, 31% said they planned to spend more on green products in 2011, with just 4% saying they planned to spend less. The remainder predicted they would spend the same amount.

Wood concludes that they way in which brands' perceived environmental credentials affect shoppers' choices has changed over the years.

'In the past, it has driven purchasing intent in a minority of people,' he says. 'Today, it is not a driver of purchase, but being seen to be doing badly is a driver of rejection.'

Top 10 UK green brands

  1. The Body Shop
  2. Innocent
  3. Marks & Spencer
  4. Sainsbury’s
  5. Tesco
  6. Asda
  7. Waitrose
  8. Dove
  9. Boots
  10. Ikea


Top brands by category

Personal Care Body Shop

Retail Marks & Spencer

Grocery Sainsbury’s

Food & Beverage Innocent

Energy E.On

Cars Honda

Technology Google

Household products Unilever

Mobile Apple

Leisure Virgin Active


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