Consumer trust in manufacturers which claim their activities and products to be ‘carbon neutral’ will be the subject of new research to be published by an international consumer think-tank and strategic consultancy this autumn.
Carbon neutral products are those in which suppliers of those products undertake activities such as ‘carbon offsetting’ (purchasing emissions reductions from elsewhere) to mitigate the greenhouse gases generated in their manufacture, to such an extent that the company or product has zero net emissions.
The Future Foundation, which is part of the Experian group and specialises in understanding socio-economic change and consumer behaviour, plans to conduct a survey on the impact of carbon neutrality claims on consumer views of such companies. Research and analysis carried out by the Future Foundation is used to develop new products, services and marketing campaigns for companies across various sectors, including retail.
Recent research from the Future Foundation entitled Climate change and the future of brands highlighted widespread confusion among consumers about the myriad of ‘green labelling’ that is starting to appear on products. It discovered that consumers wanted retailers to assist them in making more environmentally friendly purchasing decisions by a process known as ‘choice editing’, in which retailers carried out the complicated task of filtering out those products that were most damaging to the environment.
Just under half (45%) of consumers involved in the study wanted companies to take the choice out of their hands by not stocking products that were damaging to the environment. This approach has been adopted most recently by Marks & Spencer. Future Foundation’s director of research Karen Elton said: “We were surprised by how positively the choice editing came out.”
Consumers were generally in favour of green labelling and felt that a requirement to label would drive choice editing by retailers and processors. The findings also showed that personal carbon allowances - an idea most recently advanced by former UK environment secretary David Miliband - would be politically unpopular and not achievable within the near future.