MCCANN-ERICKSON/HARRIS STUDY FINDS ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS
STILL GROWING AMONG BRITISH, FRENCH AND GERMAN CONSUMERS
LONDON, Jan. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Indicating the extent to which environmental concerns have grown in Europe even beyond expectations, a majority of consumers surveyed in England, France and Germany say they are willing to spend more money to switch to products that are less harmful to the environment.
They also say they are more concerned about the environment than about other major social issues, such as crime, the economy or unemployment.
The new European Consumer Power study, conducted by the London operations of the McCann-Erickson ad agency and the Harris Research Centre, found European concerns about the environment to be stronger even than previously believed. And awareness and concern about this issue have also become more widespread throughout Europe: the French, for example, turn out to be much more concerned about environmental issues than had previously been suspected.
"We were very surprised to learn that environmental attitudes had reached this level of maturity across all three countries and that a high proportion of consumers appear genuinely prepared to alter purchase behavior for green products," said Carol Samms, director of McCann Europe Regional Information Consultancy (MERIC).
"Manufacturers really should take note and act on these results. There is a gap between what consumers expect and what is currently on offer," said Michael Watson, director of the Harris Research Centre.
The European Consumer Power study, which has implications both for businesses and for policy-makers, was based on responses from 525 consumers in France, Germany and the U.K. both on attitudes and behavior. Some of the key findings are as follows:
-- As many as 38 percent of consumers in the three countries (61 percent in Germany, 31 percent in France, 27 percent in the U.K.) say they "make a lot of effort" to buy environmentally friendly products, and a further 41 percent make "some effort."
-- A majority, 53 percent of the consumers surveyed said they would buy a less environmentally harmful product even if it costs more. (The individual country findings were 68 percent in Germany, 50 percent in the U.K., and 47 percent in France).
-- Only 15 percent of the consumers surveyed said they would wait for their brand to go green rather than switching to a more environmentally friendly product.
-- Nearly all the consumers surveyed (93 percent) agreed that the environment was a major problem facing society. This compared with 85 percent concerned about crime, 81 percent unemployment, and 79 percent the economy. The high level of concern about the environment was true in all countries, while the levels of concern about the other three issues varied across borders. Concerns about forests being cut down (67 percent), industrial pollution (67 percent), chemical pesticides (62 percent), less healthy air (59 percent) and acid rain (59 percent) were the particular issues of greatest concern.
-- The Germans, as has been known, are the most concerned about the environment, followed by the British and then the French. However, the French were generally much more concerned with this issue than had been suspected. The French were highly aware of the environmental issue and problems. Somewhat surprisingly, a significant proportion stated that they made a lot of effort to purchase environmentally friendly products. They are, however, not really prepared to compromise on the quality of the product and the packaging. In addition, they are the most skeptical of the three nationalities of manufacturer motives and environmental claims.
-- Almost half (48 percent) of consumers in the three countries said they tried new environmentally friendly products, while 42 percent said they looked for recycled packaging, and read labels carefully.
-- More than two-thirds (69 percent) of the consumers said they had purchased an environmentally friendly washing powder within the last three months. The comparable figures for other categories were 60 percent for toilet paper, 55 percent for organic food, and 42 percent for shampoos and cosmetics.
-- Consumers appear to be satisfied with the quality of environmentally friendly products they have tried; only 31 percent mentioned that they were disappointed. If necessary, 51 percent were prepared to sacrifice quality for less harmful products. Their main reason for not purchasing environmentally friendly products was not price or brand preferences, but availability.
-- Despite the appearance that consumers are prepared to alter their purchase behavior and also accept the manufacturers offers, the research shows that consumers are becoming skeptical and cynical over manufacturers motives; for example, 53 percent felt that manufacturers were simply jumping on the bandwagon by making environmental claims on products. Yet 77 percent of the consumers also said that "any effort was important regardless of the motive," and 74 percent said they had a "better opinion of active companies" in this area.
In summarizing the implications of the findings, McCann-Erickson's Samms observed: "The consumer has, in a short period of time, become aware and knowledgeable about the environment. As a result, in a number of categories an environmental product component is almost mandatory and not a unique means of differentiation. The importance of the environment as an issue will increase as consumers become even more knowledgeable about the subject. In response to this, manufacturers are going to have to strive for more solutions to an ever broadening range of environmental problems. Their communications will have to support these developments in a clear, rational and easily understandable way."
McCann-Erickson Worldwide, with more than $5 billion in billings in 73 countries, is one of the world's largest ad agencies. The International Harris Group, of which the Harris Research Centre is part, is one of the largest international market research and polling organizations.
/CONTACT: Carol Samms in London, 071-580-6690, or Stewart Alter, 212-984-3936, both of McCann-Erickson/ CO: McCann-Erickson Worldwide ST: New York IN: ADV SU: ECO FC-OS -- NY049 -- 2297 01/22/92 12:20 EST