Green consumers: recession-hit, but still engaged

A new survey of 2,000 consumers reveals they are reluctant to pay extra for green products, but are increasingly interested in environmental issues

Consumer interest in environmental issues has increased in the past year, although the impact of the recession means they remain reluctant to pay a premium for green products and services.

That is the conclusion of a major new survey of 2,000 UK consumers released this week by research firm Mintel, which found that the economic downturn has had a relatively small impact on consumer interest in environmentally friendly products.

The survey found that the proportion of people regarding the environment as an "important" or "very important" issue when shopping rose marginally in the past year to almost half of respondents, while 97 per cent said they had now adopted at least "green" behaviour.

Speaking to, Richard Caines, senior retail analyst at Mintel, said that despite the recession there was still a consumer appetite for environmental initiatives. However, he added that the survey also revealed that people were reluctant to pay a premium for green products and felt that the onus was on retailers and government to make it easier for them to reduce their environmental impact.

The poll found that only a third of respondents were willing to pay a premium for an environmentally friendly product, down more than six percentage points on 2007. In addition, 12 per cent of adults said they could no longer afford the price premium on many green and ethical products.

Caines said there were more encouraging signs that consumers were willing to support green measures that do not cost them much, noting that more than three-quarters of respondents now claim to recycle as much as they can, while the level of people switching to energy saving light bulbs and reusable carrier bags has risen despite the onset of the recession.

"The message for retailers is that people are prepared to make changes if it is made easy for them and it does not come at a price premium," he said.

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