British Columbians caring less about retailers’ environmental actions



In anticipation of Earth Day on April 22nd, Ipsos Reid conducted the annual 2011 Retailers and the Environment Study among adult British Columbians to assess retailers' actions in helping to preserve and protect the environment.

Results of this year's survey show retailers' environmental actions are playing less of a role year-over-year in store choice decision.

Even though a majority of BC consumers (67%) currently feel a retailer's environmental actions are an important consideration when deciding where to shop, significantly fewer feel this way than in previous years (16% very important, 51% somewhat important).

This is compared to 72% in 2010 (19% very important, 53% somewhat important), 74% in 2009 (21% very important, 53% somewhat important) and 77% in 2008 (24% very important, 53% somewhat important).

Ipsos Reid's retail industry team Senior Vice President, Catherine Dawson, explains the survey results: 'It is typical for other issues, like the environment, to decline in importance when concerns about the economy are stronger and this likely was happening in 2010 when we witnessed declining environmental concerns. However, it appears that in 2011 the environment has not returned to the forefront of many consumers' consideration set despite an improving economy.'

Despite the fact that a declining number of BC consumers consider the environment when deciding where to shop, there is actually a growing number that feel they are not able to judge whether a retailer has done a good or poor job in helping to preserve and protect the environment.

Nearly seven-in-ten BC consumers admit they are ill-equipped to judge retailers on this aspect (67%, of which 15% not at all well, 52% not very well), versus three-in-ten who feel they can judge retailers' environmental actions well (28%, of which 2% very well, 26% somewhat well).

Fewer in 2010 (62%, of which 15% not at all well and 47% not very well) and 2009 (56%, of which 12% not at all well and 44% not very well) indicated that they are not good judges of retailers' environmental initiatives.

Perhaps due to their lack of ability to judge retailers, when asked how they would rate retailers in BC overall on how well they perform in helping to preserve and protect the environment, more BC consumers simply don't know.

'These findings are not at all surprising,' says Nancy Wright, Executive Director of EPIC: The Vancouver Sun Sustainable Living Expo, which will host 300 eco-friendly retailers and product manufacturers this coming May 13-15 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
'Retailers to date have generally done a very lackluster job in communicating their green initiatives to their customers.  That's not to say they don't have numerous initiatives behind the scenes to lighten their corporate footprint in terms of toxins, waste, recycling, packaging, water etc. - they simply aren't getting that information out to the public.  It's challenging, and of course costly from an advertising perspective.'

This year, more than one-third of BC consumers are unsure of how retailers' perform (36%). This is compared to less than three-in-ten in 2010 (27%) and slightly less than one-quarter in 2008 (24%).

This study is part of Ipsos Reid's 2010 Retail Trends in British Columbia Study which features regular special feature reports on current events in the retail industry.

These are the findings of an Ipsos Reid study fielded from March 28 to April 3, 2011. This online survey of 654 adult British Columbians, 18 years and older, was conducted using Ipsos Reid's proprietary 'Voice of the West Interactive Forum' - an online panel of more than 6,000 British Columbians who have been randomly recruited to match the overall characteristics of the adult residents of the province.

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