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    U.S. Consumers Gaining in ‘Green Confidence’

    As 2009 winds down, U.S. consumers are feeling cautiously optimistic about issues relating to the environment, according to the latest data from the monthly Green Confidence Index.

    As 2009 winds down, U.S. consumers are feeling cautiously optimistic about issues relating to the environment, according to the latest data from the monthly Green Confidence Index.

    The index, which stood at 100 in July, increased to 103.2 in November, a jump of 3.2 percent since its inception and a strong recovery from October. Based on a monthly online survey of about 2,500 Americans age 18 and older, the index gauges attitudes toward, and confidence in, how leaders and institutions are seen to be handling environmental issues, the adequacy of information available to make informed decisions, and past and future purchases of green products.

    Of the index’s three components, consumer buying showed more volatility than the indicators tracking information and responsibility. The purchasing index, which encompasses both past and expected future expenditures on green products, went up over 5 percent in a single month.

    “The growth in purchasing is a tiptoe in the right direction,” said Amy Hebard, chief research officer of Syracuse, N.Y.-based applied marketing company Earthsense, the creator of the index, though she notes that its rise is mainly because of past purchases — those made in the past six months — vs. planned purchases. “Pent-up demand remains stable, with more consumers intending to buy green products in the future than do so now across consumable products. That pent-up demand is especially evident among big-ticket items, where green purchasing is more dependent on price parity with conventional products — a situation likely to change as credit markets loosen and consumers can take a longer view of expenditures.”

    The November index additionally measured Americans’ attitudes toward regulation of business, particularly those that could raise prices while lowering harmful emissions. By a two-to-one margin, respondents were in favor of regulations over prices. “Those who didn’t voiced their opposition much more to government interference with business than with the specific issues of emissions reduction or climate change,” observed John Davies, VP of GreenBiz Intelligence, a unit of Oakland, Calif.-based media and business information services company Greener World Media.

    Americans’ attitudes toward business seem to vary depending on the size of the company in question. November’s Green Confidence Index revealed that consumers believe more strongly that mid-size companies (those with between 50 and 1,000 employees) aren’t doing enough in environmental responsibility realm, at least vs. small companies and large ones. As Davies pointed out: “This could pose significant reputational risks to mid-size firms in terms of attracting and retaining employees, especially as the economy and the job market improve.”

    The Green Confidence Index is a partnership of GreenBiz.com, an online resource on the greening of mainstream business, and the flagship Web site of Greener World Media; Earthsense; and Shelton, Conn.-based Survey Sampling International, a provider of multi-mode survey research sampling solutions.

    For further information, visit www.greenconfidenceindex.com.

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