If New Year's resolutions are anything to go by, 2015 promises to be the year in which concern for the environment well and truly penetrates the mainstream consciousness. According to the results of a nationwide public opinion poll released by Tiller, LLC, a leading advocacy marketing consultancy, 60%, or in other words, three in five Americans said they would make a New Year's resolution to live a "greener" or more environmentally friendly lifestyle in 2015 - a significant increase from previous iterations of the survey (53% in 2009 and 49% in 2007). Moreover, better than eight in 10 Americans (83%) said they planned to look for more opportunities to "go green" in 2015.
When asked which factor posed the greatest long-term threat to their health and well being, Americans chose climate change and environmental problems (45%) above terrorism (35%) and global epidemics like Ebola (21%). This prioritization is consistent with Americans' increasing concern over global warming and the belief expressed by more than half of all respondents (57%) that the condition of the environment has worsened over their lifetime.
As Rob Densen, CEO of Tiller, said: "There is no question that the environment is emerging as a central concern for most Americans."
People have clearly recognized that action is required. "The question is what needs to be done, collectively and as individuals. New Year's resolutions aren't a bad place to start," he added.
The representative survey of 1,005 respondents across all 50 states was conducted on the Internet between Dec. 1 and Dec. 4 by the polling firm Pollara Strategic Insights. All respondents were at least 18 years of age. A probability sample of this size would yield a margin of error of +/- 3.1%. The margin of error is greater for subpopulations of the data.
The survey found that, while a small minority of Americans (11%) dismissed the notion of global warming, six in 10 respondents agreed with the statement that the "environment is in very bad shape and a major environmental catastrophe is inevitable."
Interestingly, a gender gap was clearly evident regarding the sense of concern about the environment: not only did sixty-two percent of the women surveyed agree with the above statement, women were more likely than men to indicate that their concern over global warming is increasing (64% vs. 52%).
At the same time, women displayed a higher sense of responsibility for reducing their environmental impact. They were more likely to agree that they would look for more opportunities to "go green" in 2015 (87% vs. 78%), and were also more apt to value the importance of day-to-day measures to improve the environment (such as moderating personal/household energy usage or bringing their own bags for grocery shopping).
Only one in five women agreed with the statement, "It's not worth making changes to lead a green life because one individual cannot have an impact on the environment." By comparison, nearly one in three men (32%) agreed with that statement.
Consumers are also demanding that business cleans up its act, with nearly four in five Americans (78%) agreeing that corporations have a responsibility to adopt "green" behaviors. But improved environmental business practices can also create competitive advantage for companies. Seventy-eight percent of Americans believe it is important to "purchase products from a socially or environmentally responsible company" and better than two in five (43%) said they have declined to buy a product over the past year out of concern for the effect the product or its packaging might have on the environment.
Corporations could also help themselves on the green front is by being more price-competitive. Three quarters of respondents said they would like to live a more environment-friendly life, but it was too expensive to buy "green."
"From a corporate perspective, improving a company's environmental policies and practices is truly a matter of enlightened self-interest," Densen said. "Sustainability and profitability are not mutually exclusive. Consumers want to work with companies and brands that are in alignment with their interests and, clearly, the environment is a genuine and growing public concern."