The Shelton Group, a marketing communications company dedicated to the energy efficiency and sustainability sectors, released the results of its sixth annual Eco Pulse survey and some of the findings are surprising. If you think that the traditional green consumer is a tree-hugging modern-day hippy that lives off the land then you’d be wrong. The Eco Pulse study reveals that the main green consumer is affluent, an early adopter, a materialistic frequent shopper, a lover of new ‘green’ things and is extremely brand loyal. The Shelton Group has dubbed this group of green consumers the ‘Actives.’

“Through their purchases they are creating an outward extension of their internal values. And these values most strongly align with protecting the environment, helping others, social justice and equality. Actives also like certifications and expect manufacturers to address all of their concerns – not just about what’s in the product, but also about how it’s made and its life cycle impact. Their brand loyalty is born out of connecting the dots from their values to brands and companies that align with these values and offer a sense of community and meaning.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • 58 percent of survey respondents agreed with the statement, “Global warming, or climate change, is occurring and is primarily caused by human activity,” – up from 48 percent in 2010.
  • Corporate reputation continues to increase in importance in purchase decisions, both a brand's reputation for making green products and a solid corporate environmental reputation 
  • Philanthropic goals that align with consumer priorities can positively impact purchasing decisions
  • 20 percent of survey respondents are more concerned about genetically modified or engineered foods, up 6 percentage points from the previous Eco Pulse survey
  • 78 percent of shoppers purchased green products in a brick and mortar store instead of from an online outlet
The big question is how do these shoppers know they are buying green products? With so many questionable labels used to lure in shoppers it takes a little more detective work to determine if the product is, indeed, more environmentally friendly than a competitor’s product. 

According to the 2013 Eco Pulse survey, consumers "primarily read ingredient or energy savings details or take packaging callouts at face value." Additionally, existing brand reputation can have a positive impact on the green product purchasing decision. "If a brand already has a reputation for making green products, consumers are likely to make the assumption that all of the products they produce are green."

So those bright, shiny labels that read ‘All Natural’ or ‘Non-GMO’ really do have a positive impact on the purchasing process. While this data is great from a marketing perspective, businesses can now better market their products to today’s more eco-conscious consumer, they also serve as a warning sign for consumers. Don’t trust the label on the front of a product; spend some time doing your research to determine if that all-natural box of cereal really is natural.

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