One-Quarter of Consumers Say 'Screw The Environment'

Last Updated Jul 14, 2008 1:51 PM EDT

Two new studies say 10-26 percent of shoppers are "Never Greens," whose reactions to environmental claims ranges from apathy to outright anger.

Mintel International in Chicago coined the term "Never Green" to describe 10 percent of the shopper universe. A second study by The Shelton Group of Knoxville, Tenn., found that 26 percent of respondents were "hardcore skeptics," mostly upper middle-class, conservative, middle-aged men.

GMC TruckBrandweek reporter Jim Edwards profiles William Coverley, a retired investment banker from Ohio, who just bought his 10th vehicle, a 2008 GMC Yukon XL that gets 14 miles per gallon.

"I don't care about the environmental reasons and I'll tell you why," Coverley said. "All this stuff about carbon emissions, no one really knows about the output of the sun and yet it's the single most important input behind global warming . . . Are the Chinese going to be environmentalists? Are the Indians going to be environmentalists? Are the Russians? I don't think so."

Edwards suggests studying your market carefully before launching green marketing, because emphasizing environmental claims may cost you the business of people like Coverley or Washington accountant Sally Herigstad. She bought organic produce by mistake at Fred Meyer and was dismayed to discover a recently deceased two-inch caterpillar in her steamed broccoli.

Shelton Group CEO Suzanne Shelton found that 46 percent of respondents felt "guilty, skeptical, irritated or unaffected by green issues," and the same percentage put their comfort ahead of convenience and environmental concerns. The study was commissioned by Shelton Group client BP Solar.

Image by flattop341 via Flickr, CC 2.0
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  • Lisa Everitt

    A Denver-based business writer, Lisa Everitt is a veteran of daily and weekly newspapers and trade magazines, including The Natural Foods Merchandiser, Rocky Mountain News, Inter@ctive Week, San Francisco Business Times, and the Peninsula Times Tribune.

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