ARE CONCERNED ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT
by Whit Gibbons
September 16, 2007
news and the bad news sometimes come in the same package. A fine example
of such irony is that a recent survey showed that people are more concerned
about the environment than ever before. Public interest in the environment
is encouraging because when a large majority of Americans agrees on something,
the commercial sector and even some politicians eventually move in that
direction. Who can argue that enthusiasm for healthy environments for
humans and wildlife is bad? Especially since some people are actually
working toward positive changes. The bad part of course is that environmental
conditions have reached a point that such a high level of valid concern
is being expressed.
was conducted by Cone, a "strategy and communications agency"
that focuses on marketing public relations within the context of corporate
responsibility and "in building brand trust." One of Cone's
approaches is to arrange for surveys that track "industry trends
. . . and corporate attitudes towards companies' involvement with social
issues," which is implemented by developing "innovative programs
that respond to the needs and passions of consumers." I translate
this as "how can a company make more money but within a framework
of what society views as proper?" This is of course the American
Way, and one to be encouraged as long as no one gets greedy.
Cone Consumer Environmental Survey, based on 1,066 online surveys, revealed
some unexpected attitudes, a very important one being that "consumers
have high expectations for companies to be environmentally responsible."
Toward this end, a majority believed that companies can and should support
the environment in a variety of ways, including reducing pollution through
office and manufacturing operations (71 percent), designing environmentally
friendly products with minimal packaging (69 percent), and distributing
and transporting them more efficiently (69 percent). One finding I was
glad to see was that 59 percent thought companies should donate money
and services to support environmental causes.
A key point
about such large percentages of those surveyed who supported "reducing"
pollution, designing "more" environmentally friendly products,
and transporting them "more" efficiently is that current environmental
actions by corporate America are viewed as unsatisfactory by a significant
majority. Another telling attitude revealed by the survey is that many
individuals "put their money where their mouths are" by taking
actions that support the environment. Thus, 62 percent purchase recyclable
products, 56 percent buy energy-efficient home improvement products, and
48 percent use environmentally friendly cleaning supplies. Consumers who
are actively making positive changes environmentally will obviously appreciate
a company that has the same attitude.
that the survey was online, which means that only the computer-using public
with time enough on their hands to engage in such a survey offered opinions.
However, presumably the same attitudes would be expressed among the less
computer-literate public about what motivates them to pay more for environmentally
friendly products. Not surprisingly, the highest percentage (72 percent)
was for saving money in the long-term. The health and welfare of future
generations was given as a reason by 63 percent, which sounds like good
news. Of course, is the bad news that 37 percent of the public don't care
about future generations? Either way, the majority of environmental attitudes
expressed are positive and should result in a strong vote in favor of
such issues in upcoming elections.
One of the
most important general conclusions from the survey was that "interest
in the environment is growing," based on almost 90 percent of the
respondents declaring that they had as much or more interest in environmental
issues now than a year ago. Although it may seem like environmental sentiments
were higher in earlier decades, especially the '60s, '70s, and '80s, don't
forget that the most outspoken conservationists and environmental supporters
from then were nowhere near the majority. However, perhaps if we had listened
to what they were saying, we would already have solved some serious environmental
problems, rather than having so many issues facing us now. "Earth
Day every day" was suggested back then. Perhaps the time is on us
to take that slogan seriously.
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