Washington, DC - 13 July 2012 - A new global analysis released today by the National Geographic Society finds that U.S. consumers rank last of 17 countries surveyed in sustainable behavior, with a score of 44.7 on the 2012 Greendex. U.S. consumers are among the least likely to feel “guilty about the impact” they have on the environment (21%), yet they are near the top in believing their individual choices could make a difference (47%).
The National Geographic Society’s complete 2012 Greendex is online at www.nationalgeographic.com/greendex
In what may be a major disconnect between perception and behavior, the study also shows that consumers who feel the guiltiest about their impact – those in China, India and Brazil – actually lead the pack in sustainable consumer choices, with Greendex scores of 58.9, 57.8 and 55.5 respectively. That’s despite Chinese and Indian consumers also being among the least confident that individual action can help the environment. The findings highlight an opportunity for governments, companies and NGOs to help empower consumers.
"National Geographic developed the Greendex in 2008 to explore the behaviors and attitudes of consumers worldwide over time, to see how they relate to the environment,” said Terry Garcia, Executive Vice President for Mission Programs at the National Geographic Society. “The 2012 Greendex shows a wide range of perspectives among global consumers as to their views about their own individual impact and responsibility as well as their power to take action. When compared with Greendex calculations about the sustainability of consumers’ individual behaviors, the results are striking.”
The data suggest a significant divide between how emerging markets and developed nations experience environmental challenges. Consumers in emerging markets are among the most likely to say that environmental problems are having a negative impact on their health, and they are more inclined than others to expect that global warming will “worsen [their] way of life” within their lifetime; concern about air and water pollution is highest among Chinese, Mexican, Brazilian and Argentinean consumers as well as in Russia and India. Americans, meanwhile, express greatest concern about economic impacts: The economy is the top concern, and the cost of energy and fuel is second – both more prominent than in developing countries.
“While there can be many factors that affect individual behavior, the paradoxes that we see in this survey are intriguing and potentially encouraging,” Garcia said. “Clearly, issues related to sustainability are resonating with some consumer segments. Gaining a better understanding of what’s behind those differences presents an opportunity to inspire and enable broader changes in behavior.”
The National Geographic Greendex was launched in 2008 in conjunction with the research consultancy GlobeScan to inform consumers worldwide and motivate sustainable choices. It explores individual consumer behavior and material lifestyle of 17,000 consumers in 17 countries around the world, and measures the specific choices and behaviors that contribute most to a consumer’s overall ecological impact – the type of car you drive, the way you heat your house, the kind of foods you eat. A complex algorithm is applied to results to generate an index score – a Greendex score – for each individual respondent that reflects the relative environmental impact of his or her consumption patterns. Individual scores are averaged to create a mean score for consumers in each country. Combined with questions about cultural drivers and perceptions, the Greendex gives a comprehensive view into the state of sustainable consumption. It is the only survey of its kind.
Among the top findings:
At www.nationalgeographic.com/greendex, individuals around the world can take an online survey to find out their personal Greendex score. They can also examine the Greendex survey results by country, measure their knowledge of some basic green issues against what others around the world know and get tips on living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.
Note: Hi-res versions of the graph and charts are available at the following ftp site: http://press.nationalgeographic.com/downloads/temp2/file/greendex (username: press / password: press)
The Greendex is the world’s only comprehensive analysis of the individual consumer behaviors most closely tied to environmental impact. It provides a unique map of sustainable consumer behavior worldwide – allowing insight into how consumer perceptions and attitudes align with specific actions and choices.
Some specific findings from the four top areas of consumer behavior explored by the Greendex include:
Americans trail the rest of the world in green consumer behavior, yet American consumers feel comparatively little guilt about their environmental impact. Further, American consumers tend to believe that their individual actions can make a difference for the environment.
Across the 17 countries surveyed, consumers who feel guiltier and less confident that their actions can make a difference tend to have more sustainable consumption patterns.
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The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the Society’s mission is to inspire people to care about the planet. It reaches more than 400 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and other magazines; National Geographic Channel; television documentaries; music; radio; films; books; DVDs; maps; exhibitions; live events; school publishing programs; interactive media; and merchandise. National Geographic has funded more than 10,000 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program promoting geographic literacy. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.com
For 25 years, GlobeScan has helped clients measure and build value-generating relationships with their stakeholders. Uniquely placed at the nexus of reputation, brand and sustainability, we partner with clients to build trust, drive engagement and inspire innovation within, around and beyond their organizations. For more information, visit www.GlobeScan.com