Green Lies: Exploring Consumer Perceptions of Greenwashing

Why greenwashing consumer sustainability research?

As environmentalism and ethical practices are increasingly put under the spotlight, companies are held to account for not being green. To win favour with consumers, it is thought that some companies make false claims about the sustainability of their products and services.

Greenwashing is damaging – when exposed – and can have a negative effect on consumer attitudes towards an organisation. We wanted to explore this in more detail, as well as the initiatives most likely to lead to perceptions of a company as sustainable.

Don’t greenwash away your customers

To bring robust data to greenwashing consumer sustainability research, we conducted an online survey with 1,002 UK consumers to explore perceptions of companies’ sustainable initiatives. We found:

  • Almost half the sample said they would buy from a company “as little as possible” if they thought they were not living up to their sustainable claims.
  • Actions most likely to lead to perceptions of a company as sustainable included having clear environmental goals (59% of sample) and showing ethical practices (46%).
  • Having presented respondents with real-life sustainability initiatives, it appeared that campaigns seen as more impactful or large-scale were received more positively.

Interested in your own research?

We offer a range of qualitative, quantitative and desk-based sustainability research services, from materiality assessments to behavioural change ethnography, which can be used to explore an array of topics, from recycling to wellbeing.

  • Or contact us to chat with a senior researcher about your interests or needs.