most small biz owners say customers won't pay more for green

A majority of small business owners are taking at least small steps to make their operations more environmentally friendly, but one in three admit the slumping economy is impacting their plans to adopt more green business practices.

The results come from the Small Business Index survey from Wells Fargo and Gallup. A majority of those in the survey -- 67 percent -- don't think customers will pay more for environmentally friendly goods and services. This is up considerably since April 2007, when nearly half, or 49 percent, believed consumers would fork over more green for greener products.

Of course, the change in perception is due to today's economic woes. Still, a spate of recent surveys show some are indeed willing. For example, a Forrester survey suggests up to 18 percent of consumers would pay more for an environmentally friendly product, while recent Carbon Trust research said it's important to buy from environmentally responsible companies.

In the Wells Fargo/Gallup survey, just 37 percent said they actively try to show their green credentials to their customers, down from 47 percent in April 2007. The No. 1 reason for communicating efforts: "As part of a personal commitment or responsibility," followed by public relations reasons and attracting customers.

Forty-five percent said they've assessed how much energy their company uses while 68 percent have made the switch to energy-savings appliances, light bulbs or vehicles.

Fifty-five percent of respondents believe their company can take specific actions to improve the environment, but 43 percent don't, representing a potentially large swath of small business owners who are missing out on opportunities to make their operations more efficient and save money in the process.

Wells Fargo and Gallup have conducted the Small Business Index survey for the last 23 quarters on their perceptions of their business financial situation. The most recent survey, conducted Jan. 22 - Feb. 2, is based on 604 small business owners across the country.

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