U.S. Consumers Lag in Global Sustainability Sentiment, According to ESW Report

When it comes to being “green-minded,” U.S. consumers are not as concerned about the environment as their counterparts in other countries. According to the latest Global Voices survey from ESW, the direct-to-consumer e-commerce firm, U.S. consumers are also less sustainably minded than they were a year ago.

Measured by a sustainability sentiment score, U.S. consumers scored a 49 this year versus 51 in the report from 2023. This year’s score compares to the global mean score of 55. Regarding the highest scores, India came in with a 75 and was followed by the United Arab Emirates with a 74 and China with a 70. Mexico’s score was 67.

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Countries that scored low include Japan (32), Germany (46), the U.K. (46), Switzerland (48), and Canada (48).

The sustainability sentiment score reflects the percentage of those polled who said they agree or strongly agree with 14 of the sustainability sentiments. These include declarative statements such as them trying to be more sustainable in their day-to-day life or they no longer buy brands that have poor environmental records.

Martim Avillez Oliveira, chief revenue officer at ESW, said the company was surprised to discover “that the degree to which consumers are concerned about sustainability, as well as what they value from the brands they patronize, depends largely upon where they live.”

Oliveira said the data suggests that while U.S. shoppers have been encouraged to make environmentally responsible choices for years, “perhaps the intensity of that messaging, along with the increasing strain that inflation places on households, may have consumers at a tipping point.”

The report also showed differences in sustainability sentiment between generational cohorts. “In general, younger people were more concerned with sustainability than older generations,” the report’s authors said, adding that, globally, Gen Z’s score was 61, followed by Millennials at 60, Gen X at 53, and Baby Boomers at 49.

“Within the U.S., Millennials score highest compared to other generations, yet also declined compared to last year,” the report said. “Millennials scored 59 on the sustainability index, (compared to 62 last year) but still rank higher this year than Gen Z (57), Gen X (50), and Baby Boomers (35).”

The report also revealed global shoppers with exceptionally high scores (80 and above), which ESW described as “environmentally attuned shoppers.” Of those polled, one-third scored above 80. In addition, the report’s authors said that globally, more than half of the shoppers surveyed (55 percent) “said they are more aware of greenwashing than they were a year ago, and 27 percent said they considered a brand’s environmental transparency record when making a purchase.”

Other findings include that, globally, 63 percent of shoppers polled said that they value brand authenticity “and want brands to be truthful and transparent about company environmental credentials.”

Regarding the methodology, survey responses were culled from an online panel of adults over 18 who were representative of national quotas for key demographics in 18 countries, ESW said in the report. More than 18,600 surveys were completed.

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