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Consumers around the world talk about the environment as if they were discussing their own backyards (which, of course, they are). But will they continue to care about green issues now that the economy has taken a nosedive? That’s what companies the world over want to know as they consider their past investments in green strategies and plan for the future. The answer, according to our research, is a resounding “yes.” Green products and processes not only allay the depletion of natural resources, they can allay the depletion of cash flow for both companies and consumers.

In July 2008, The Boston Consulting Group conducted a global consumer survey to assess green attitudes and shopping behaviors and followed up with “pulse-check” surveys in Europe in October 2008 and in the United States in January 2009. In the October survey, we found:

  • More consumers systematically purchased green products in 2008 than in 2007.
  • Although consumers are cutting back on big-ticket items, they are reluctant to cut back on organic foods.
  • When asked in which product categories they are willing to trade up, consumers ranked organic foods 20 on a list of 108 product categories (up from 43 in 2006).
  • Consumers said they are willing to pay a higher price for green products if they are better.

To skeptics, sustainability may appear to be the media’s topic du jour. But being green isn’t just a fad. Most interesting, its attraction for consumers can have little to do with concerns about sustainability. A big appeal (especially these days) is that green products can offer money savings in addition to the benefits of health and safety. As long as consumers continue to worry about energy costs and their budgets, and as long as they continue to be conscientious about the ingredients of their food and personal-care products, being green will be an attractive business.

Customers expect companies to take the lead on green

Consumers believe that companies can be more effective than private individuals in acting on green issues, including health and safety, and they expect them to do so.

About the Authors:

Joe Manget is a senior partner and managing director in the Toronto office of The Boston Consulting Group. Catherine Roche is a partner and managing director in the firm’s Dusseldorf office. Felix Münnich is project leader in BCG’s Munich office.

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