Finder’s Green Report 2023: key findings
Consumers want to "go green" but many are being led astray by misleading information in the name of company profits. Case in point, what does "going green" actually mean? To address the confusion, Finder launched the Green Awards to celebrate the companies that excel and educate consumers. These awards are accompanied by Finder's Green Report, exploring the attitudes towards environmental behaviour among Aussies and the factors impacting them.
This year's report covered a slight drop in consumer concern for the environment, the widening gap between the number of men and women who are concerned about their carbon footprint, the detrimental impact of corporate greenwashing and the cost of living crisis on consumer adoption of green behaviours, the link between education and better outcomes for the environment, what action consumers are taking in 2023 and the positive results of sustainable choices.
The analysis of corporate greenwashing, the cost of living crisis and their subversion of environmental consumer behaviour provide the most intriguing findings from this report.
The cost of living - and going green
Finder's recent cost of living report delved into the effect of rising inflation and interest rates on consumer stress and financial well-being, finding 78% of Australians had to reduce their spending to cope with the increasing cost of living. As a result of these rising prices, the green report found almost half (47%) of Australians are less likely to spend money on sustainable products.
The most popular item to cut was free-range and organic foods, with 1 in 4 (26%) respondents saying they would reduce their spending. This coincides with 43% of consumers in April citing their weekly grocery shop in their top three most stressful expenses — the highest level since the beginning of Finder's consumer sentiment tracker in May 2019.
Electric vehicles (23%) which have a comparatively high purchase price, and green energy (21%), followed as the most likely purchases to be dropped by consumers struggling with cost of living pressures.
The second factor that has intensified over the last 12 months is "greenwashing" which continues to cloud the waters for consumers. Greenwashing, as defined by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), involves overstating an investment fund's eco-friendliness, sustainability or ethical practices. This can be expanded to companies and their products as well. Still a relatively nascent phenomenon, greenwashing makes switching to an environmentally friendly alternative and deciding how to, more complex.
The term "environmentally friendly" itself is a perfect example. This phrase is completely subjective, making it easy for companies to exaggerate the benefit of their products without actually cooking their books.
As with the example above, many standards and definitions of "sustainable" and "green" exist and a lot of claims are subjective, leading to confusion amongst consumers. Data from April reveals 76% of consumers struggle to determine which products or services genuinely benefit the environment. A study conducted in Malaysia, referenced in the green report, reveals that greenwashing creates "green scepticism" among consumers and ultimately weakens their environmental concerns and reduces their interest in purchasing eco-friendly products.
The good news
I'm conscious that you've just been met with a barrage of statistics that paint a bleak outlook for environmental behaviour and green spending in Australia. However, I promise you the grass is greener when looking at other issues. One reassuring insight is a result of further investigation into a study cited in last year's report which found people in Florida who had experienced a hurricane were more willing to pay higher taxes to protect the environment.
We took this question to the Australian respondents in our survey to see if the same was true down under. It was found that a third (33%) of Victorians were willing to pay higher taxes to protect the environment. Meanwhile, 31% of Queenslanders and 30% of those respondents in New South Wales were willing to fork out more at tax time for the environment. Those from South Australia were the least likely with only 24% willing to pay extra for the environment.
From this data, we can come to a similar outcome - consumers from states that, in recent years, had been hardest hit by bushfires and floods, namely New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, were more likely to pay higher taxes to protect the environment.
However, I believe the most impressive finding is that almost a third (31%) of consumers nationally are willing to pay more tax to help the environment. This is quite impressive considering I have not come across many (if any) Australians who would agree to pay any more tax than they absolutely have to.
If the Australian government added an extra $100 "environment levy" at tax time for those 31% of consumers, they would net an extra $629 million to spend on sustainability initiatives.
This year's green report has made it clear that there are a few challenges standing in the way of more Australian consumers adopting green behaviour. However, it is not all bad. Many consumers are taking action, with some changing their perspectives and attitudes as well. We hope at Finder that the Green Awards can help brands encourage brands and educate consumers to take better, more informed steps towards a greener future.
Download the full Green Report 2023 here
Check out the winners from Finder's Green Awards 2023 here
Finder's Insights Blog examines issues affecting the Australian consumer. It appears regularly on finder.com.au.