Using Core Values for Environmental Causes and Green Marketing

I love market research–not necessarily quick, potentially biased surveys put out by companies wanting to prove a particular point, but in-depth market research by experienced researchers using large samples. Sometimes you just learn the obvious, but most often something surprising and interesting comes out. People are interesting and will tell you surprising things if you just ask them in the right way.

In a recent survey by ecoAmerica, Americans basically said that reducing pollution for personal health American Climate Values Surveyreasons and for the improvement of the environment is important but that they don’t want to pay for it. They want to be paid to improve their air quality and environment.

OK, maybe that is not so surprising, but I bet you that if you glance through the 39-page summary report, you’ll find things that are new or surprising to you.

The American Climate Values Survey (ACVS) was conducted by the nonprofit marketing group ecoAmerica (and sponsored by the Alliance for Climate Protection, the Department of Conservation of the State of California, NRDC and The Nature Conservancy), polled a sample of Americans on their values, beliefs and behaviors related to climate change and the environment. The ACVS is a 240-question survey that measures attitudes, values and behaviors around climate, the environment and political attitudes. Over 3000 surveys were mailed to a representative sample of US adults, with 1,707 usable responses, in March and April 2008.

The ACVS response with strongest support (with 95% of respondents agreeing) was, “Even if it turns out people aren’t causing global warming, reducing pollution is still worth it for personal health reasons, ” followed closely by “Even if it turns out people aren’t causing global warming, reducing pollution it is still worth it for a better environment” at 93%.

That said, they aren’t willing to prioritize climate change or the environment at a public policy level or in their own home, although they are willing to swap out light bulbs and institute energy conservation measures in their home, because it saves them money on utility bills.  Almost all Americans (92%) have taken some energy conservation measures in their home, such as by installing compact fluorescent bulbs or upgrading their thermostats. What is really interesting is to get to the root of these attitudes and behaviors, and that leads to an inquiry into beliefs.

Only 18% of Americans surveyed expressed strong agreement that global warming is a real and caused by humans (based on a series of related the questions), and 43% of respondents agreed that, “God will take care of global warming in God’s own way.”

As I reported almost a year ago, The Hartman Group’s research presentation at the Green Business Conference showed that a significant number of consumers are concerned about the health of their families and safety in their homes, and many are concerned about the ethics of the companies they buy from. However, broader environmental appeals did not affect most consumers’ purchase decisions.

If you are an environmental nonprofit or green business, you need to tailor your message to very local or even personal issues–human health and wellness in very specific locations.

Some good news from this survey includes that most Americans believe that a “green economy” can save them money and develop US jobs.  82% believe that, “Manufacturing solar panels, wind turbines and other alternative energy equipment is a good way to bring jobs back to the US.” And a majority believe that “Green collar jobs will boost the economy.”

The summary report also shows the difference in environmental attitudes based on gender, political afiliation, age and education level, so there is information for a large number of organizations, causes and companies.

This survey builds on a survey ecoAmerica conducted in 2006 to assess attitudes among the American public on environmental issues. That survey’s primary purpose was to segment Americans by values and suggest ways environmental groups could tailor their appeals to the various segments, and the benefit now is that there is comparative results on a good number of questions between the two surveys.

For more posts on interesting research studies, see:

Surprise Youth Not Leaders in the Green Movement

Green Market Research in Six Easy Steps

The Changing Face of the US Consumer:  What it Means for Ecopreneurs

The Green Business Conference–Entrepreneurs Step Up

Written by Leah Edwards

A strategy and marketing consultant, Leah enjoys highlighting the efforts of, and providing information for, social entrepreneurs. In her consulting practice, she works with cause-related businesses and enlightened investors--to see people succeed at doing good for the planet and local communities while doing good for themselves.

Leah has a B.S. in business from UC Berkeley and an MBA and Certificate of Public Management from Stanford University. More information at


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