Industry Intelligence Inc., formerly ForestWeb, does surveys-for-hire in a number of industries, covering everything from food to paper to packaging. Their 2012 EcoFocus trend survey addressed what makes the 'eco-friendly shopper' tick and concluded what marketing people who have bankrolled the future of their employers on sustainability want to see; 86% of U.S. adult grocery shoppers are “consumers who care”and "sometimes, usually or always" shop based on sustainability.
That's good, right? I agree, all things being equal, except it highlights the schism of what smart people call a 'First World Problem' - namely that the 1% who can afford to shop at Whole Foods and read the labels regarding the sustainability of their packaging don't actually understand the poor people they claim to care about. A First World Problem is cheering that the current administration and its anti-science beliefs blocked a perfectly wonderful and harmless genetically modified salmon, for example - the elite can afford organic food that at least claims to have no pesticides or GMOs and is fortified with ethical and moral sanctimony. The places where the 99% can afford to shop are objects of scorn by the rich who can worry about sustainability. 51% of their survey takers even insist an environmentally friendly company is the most important consideration, whereas people who are not rich or otherwise part of a government union shop at places like Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club and Winn-Dixie. Those were all criticized by respondents as the least eco-friendly.
What was left out of the survey methodology? Some calibration, like 'How often do you actually shop at Wal-Mart?' The lack of eco-friendliness is simply perception by people who never go in a Wal-Mart, they just read about how it has no union and therefore it must be anti-environment. That thinking is due to what should be on the top of the list of Biggest Clichés of 2012 - "motivated reasoning", which is used by psychobabble pundits to explain everything they don't like about people they happen not to know, any more than EcoFocus survey takers know about Sam's Club.
In reality, Wal-Mart has spent a lot of money on sustainability. Linda Gilbert, the CEO of EcoFocus Worldwide which, ta-da, sells marketing consulting services - says companies like Wal-Mart and the others should be doing a better job of publicizing those efforts. “In every aisle in your store, you should be trying to find ways to share both the small steps and the big ones with shoppers,” she said in their statement about the survey. But why? Few people taking that survey shop there and the people who shop there already know about sustainability efforts. You think customers weren't annoyed when Wal-Mart just got rid of plastic bags and told everyone to buy reusable cloth ones they left at home time and again? The 86% of people who shop based on sustainability and for whom cost is no object had no way to know that.
These sorts of surveys tend to be rather self-serving. At least political polls accurately predicted that poor people were going to vote one way and the rich and the middle class were going to vote another, but these surveys about demographics don't tell us much outside confirmation bias.
I pity poor millennials, the most over-surveyed and analyzed group in history; they read about themselves and are convinced they want healthier food than their parents - as long as it is microwaveable and in a pouch.
Surveys about Generation Y also claim they simultaneously care more about global warming than anyone, except they care about it less - because they'd like to not live with their parents even though they care about greater income equality.
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