Millennial Consumers Lead Growth in Green Purchasing

While green products and services continue to be top-of-mind for Americans, Millennials are emerging as some of the most committed purchasers of sustainable products and services. Today, SCA, the maker of the Tork brand of away-from-home hygiene products in North America, shares this finding as part of its annual survey on consumer green purchasing behaviors and attitudes in the United States. SCA commissioned Harris Poll to conduct an online survey among over 2,000 U.S. adults (aged 18+) in April 2014 to capture in-the-moment consumer insights.

“The results of this year’s survey were surprising in a number of ways,” said Mike Kapalko, sustainability marketing manager for SCA’s North American away-from-home professional hygiene business. “In the past, we’ve seen macro trends capturing an overall increase in green purchasing and behavior. However this year, the data tells a more nuanced story. Millennials continue to emerge as core supporters of green products and services, and they are willing to pay more to buy green. This finding is particularly important for businesses when you look at how consumer purchasing is set to shift in the coming years.”

While Boomers are entering retirement age and could be scaling back spending, Accenture projects that the nearly 80 million Millennials in the United States will account for 30 percent of retail purchasing by 2020. This demographic shift will have major implications for businesses across all industries, especially as it relates to sustainability.

“Brands and companies looking to develop strong relationships with Millennial consumers should focus on how to improve sustainability practices, as well as how to communicate those accomplishments,” continued Kapalko. “If the trends continue, transparent sustainability practices also will continue to be in demand, and early adopters could have a competitive advantage.”

According to the survey, 75 percent of American adults reported purchasing green products/services. This represents a slight decrease in purchasing from last year, when 78 percent of Americans reported green purchases. Though the overall percentage of individuals making green purchases has decreased slightly, Millennials were consistent year-over-year. Notably, Millennials, age 18-34, who purchase green products/services are significantly more likely (27 percent) to have increased the number of green products and services they buy compared to adults ages 35-44 (18 percent) and adults ages 45+ (15 percent).

Additionally, among those who purchase green products/services and have a child under 18 years old in the household, 15 percent of reported a reduction in green purchasing.

Though cost may impact purchasing decisions, the survey results show many consumers are committed to pay more for sustainable services and products if needed. In the U.S., 40 percent of adults are willing to pay more for products if ethical and responsible manufacturing practices are guaranteed. Millennial adults aged 18-34 are significantly more likely (56 percent) to pay more than older consumers aged 35+ (34 percent).

The majority of U.S. consumers who purchase green products/services do so for environmental reasons (54 percent), however, proportionally more adults aged 35+ identified this as their primary motivator (60 percent) than 18-34-year-old adults (38 percent). Meanwhile, Millennials are much more motivated by health benefits (24 percent) versus older adults aged 35-64 (13 percent).

When asked about their opinion of “green” products and services, 41 percent of American adults say that it is really just getting started, whereas only 11 percent believe green is just a fad and will go away at some point.

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