WASHINGTON—In their second annual survey to measure and monitor consumer behaviors that have an impact on the environment, the National Geographic Society and the international polling firm GlobeScan have found an increase in environmentally friendly consumer behavior in 13 of the 14 countries that were surveyed in both 2008 and 2009. Like last year, the top-scoring consumers of 2009 are in the developing economies of India, Brazil and China; American and Canadian consumers again score lowest.
Consumers registering the best year-on-year improvement in environmentally sustainable consumer behavior are the Spanish, Germans, French and Australians, while Russians and Mexicans show the smallest increase. Brazilians are the only consumers measured in both 2008 and 2009 to show a decrease in their Greendex score.
Released on May 13, “Greendex™ 2009: Consumer Choice and the Environment — A Worldwide Tracking Survey” is a comprehensive measure of consumer behavior in 65 areas relating to housing, transportation, food and consumer goods. Greendex 2009 ranks average consumers in 17 countries — up from 14 in 2008 — according to the environmental impact of their discretionary and nondiscretionary consumption patterns.
Much of the increase in the overall 2009 Greendex scores was due to improvement within the category of housing, where the Greendex measures the energy and resources consumed by people’s homes. Changes within the categories of personal transportation, food and consumer goods were mixed, some up, some down. The results show that both cost considerations and environmental concerns were motivators in consumers adopting more environmentally sustainable behavior over the past year.
First conducted in 2008, the Greendex survey was expanded in 2009, with the addition of Argentina, South Korea and Sweden to Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Spain and the United States. Seventeen thousand consumers were polled online (1,000 in each country), answering questions that measured their behavior in the areas of housing, transportation, food and consumption of goods. Each respondent earned a score reflecting the environmental impact of his or her consumption patterns within each of these four categories, and four corresponding “sub-indices” were created. Consumers were then assigned an overall Greendex score (a measure of the relative environmental sustainability of their consumption patterns) out of 100, based on their performance within the four sub-indices. By comparing this year’s scores with the previous year, changes in environmentally sustainable consumption at both the global level and within countries can be monitored.
Consumption as measured by the Greendex is determined both by the choices consumers actively make — such as repairing rather than replacing items, using cold water to wash laundry, choosing green products rather than environmentally unfriendly ones — and choices that are controlled more by their circumstances — such as the climate they live in or the availability of green products or public transport. The initiative considers both of these types of factors, with 60 percent of the 65-variable index based on choice or discretionary behavior.