More than half of British consumers claim they would stop buying from a company that was found to have misled customers over its sustainability claims, a poll has revealed.
The research, published by consultancy giant KPMG this morning, tracks the public’s attitudes towards corporate ‘greenwashing’ and broader understanding of green labelling schemes.
The poll of more than 2,000 adults reveals that concern around misleading green claims is already shaping shopping habits, with almost a fifth of those polled admitting they have already changed their opinion of a company due to misleading green claims. This trend was found to be more acute in the capital, where a quarter of Londoners reported having had their views of a brand changed by accusations of ‘greenwash’.
Overall, 54 per cent of those polled said they would stop buying products and services from companies revealed to have overinflated their sustainability credentials.
Richard Andrews, head of ESG at KPMG in the UK, said the findings underscored the critical importance of companies backing up all green marketing and product claims with accurate data.
“Companies keen to capitalise on the growing interest in sustainable products, should be taking a measured approach; overselling sustainability credentials risks losing customers as well as the reputational damage that will follow,” he said. “While this might often be unintentional, understanding the data behind any sustainability claims is key, as well as ensuring that data has also been verified, if brands are serious about avoiding any greenwashing risks.”
The fashion and energy industries were seen to be the sectors most likely to engage in greenwashing, with 57 and 58 per cent of respondents respectively identifying the industries as being most prone to making misleading green claims. A further 51 per cent of participants said they believed the transport and automotive sectors were among those most likely to engage in greenwashing.
Despite mounting concern about greenwash, the research highlights how sustainability remains a major consideration for consumers, with two-thirds of participants noting that they tried to seek out green or sustainable options when selecting products and services.
However, a third of respondents said they were sceptical of green labels and sustainability claims, while a similar proportion admitted to struggling to know what products were green or sustainable due to inconsistent labelling.
Awareness of sustainability labels was found to be mixed. While just under three quarters of those polled recognised Fairtrade mark, this percentage dropped to 44 per cent for Rainforest Alliance Certified label. Meanwhile, less than 10 per cent of respondents said they recognised initiatives like the Carbon Reduction Label, B Corp, and Better Cotton Initiative.
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