Are consumers putting their money where their mouths are?
As companies across myriad industries come under fire for ‘greenwashing’ – the practice of misrepresenting a brand’s sustainability efforts – Ipsos took a look at the extent to which Americans consider their social, environmental, and ethical concerns when opening their wallets to purchase products or make investment decisions.
The first climate change alarm bells rang over three decades ago. Black Lives Matter has existed for nearly a decade. Public health concerns have been thrust to the forefront of public discourse for the better part of three years now.
Americans are very familiar with these and other systemic issues facing the country, and over half are identified as being engaged in socio-political issues. In survey after survey, large swaths of the public express their concern for a lack of progress on climate change, racism/racial inequality, etc. Up until very recently, few used the power of their dollar – via purchasing and/or investing decisions - to re-shape things for the better. Instead, they’ve looked to the government, corporations, or industry watchdogs to lead this change. However, 2021 marked a record year for socially responsible consumer spending. As such, doing good has evolved from a “nice to do” to a cost of entry for businesses.
Social and environmental issues will not fade from the public consciousness and may continue to grow in importance to consumers. Americans will continue to expect companies to do their part as well, especially as inflation concerns persist and rising costs weigh on U.S. families. This goes well beyond CSR initiatives, charitable donations, and event sponsorship. Products and services need to be shown to have both personal consumer benefits (they make life better) and direct social and environmental outcomes (they make the world better). Anything short may be interpreted as greenwashing and can damage a brand’s reputation.
In this report, we explore social purchasing and social investing as well as the gap between what American consumers say about the social issues and causes they support, and how it affects the goods, services or investments they purchase.