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Kiwis sceptical over business environmental claims

4 June Media Release

Kiwis sceptical about business environmental claims

On World Environment Day this Thursday, New Zealand business may have some explaining to do. According to a survey released today, New Zealanders want more proof businesses are stepping up to the environmental challenge. Findings from 'Eye on New Zealand', G2's latest research, show New Zealanders are sceptical about the environmental track records of companies with 67% believing most companies are still not environmentally conscious and that they use the environment simply as a marketing tool.

We were fascinated by 'The Eye on NZ' findings, says Sarah Norrie, Managing Director of G2, part of Grey Global Group. "The results say that 80% of those surveyed want companies to tell people what they are doing about the environment, although 42% don't believe companies when they say they are carbon friendly".

"The research suggests most New Zealanders are confused about terminology about sustainability with 62% of those surveyed saying they don't know if carbon credits and carbon offsets mean the same thing, and 51% think carbon neutral and carbon friendly are the same thing. Despite this, most say they are concerned about our carbon footprint (62%)," she said. Sarah Norrie says these are just a few of the findings from the 'Eye on New Zealand' latest research which reveals New Zealanders' attitudes to a range of topics including environmental issues. The research was carried out by Australian company, Sweeney Research and G2 uses the findings to advise clients on marketing strategies.

Responding to the findings that one in three New Zealanders are very concerned about business attitude to the environment is Rachel Brown, CEO of the Sustainable Business Network. "This is consistent with our research that 67% of companies should be doing more. There is a lot of inherent public distrust of companies' environmental claims and until consumers can see the evidence and see companies actively demonstrating solutions, that situation won't change." Brown believes many companies are being judged on their corporate image. "This means companies have to actively demonstrate their environmental commitments through their products, their services, their operations and communications."

Brown believes that more understanding about sustainability will be important in the future, "Over the past few weeks there has been a lot of coverage on rising prices - particularly petrol and food. This leads to political posturing around whether we can afford to look after the environment. In fact the opposite is true - we know that because of the price rises we must take action and improve our efficiencies , by purchasing smaller cars and using them less; by using public transport; by buying local in season foods, or even growing your own as much as you can."

Rhys Taylor from the Sustainable Living Programme agrees. "Greenwashing by business is sadly common and it is a real concern for New Zealanders. Many will be cynical about the motivations of business in undertaking sustainability initiatives unless they are earning reputable accreditation labels such as Enviromark, Green Globe, or Environmental Choice, or applying an internationally-recognised strategic sustainability framework such as The Natural Step." TV actress Robyn Malcolm from New Zealand series Outrageous Fortune, well known for her passionate environmental beliefs, says the findings reflect "an overall moderate concern, tempered with some healthy skepticism".

"The fact that a significant percentage of people are prepared to make changes in their lives is positive, although its fascinating that only 6% consider that the environment will be a major issue in the next five years when we are already seeing global weather, food and oil issues having an extremely dramatic effect in other parts of the world right now."

"The scientific evidence, while strong, is obviously not conclusive enough for most people yet."

Nandor Tanzcos, Green Party MP says "what people have to remember is that there is no real conflict between economic and environmental wellbeing. Living more greenly is generally cheaper for households (growing your own veges, walking,cycling, and car sharing, energy efficiency, etc.) The key thing is to recognise that the environment and the economy are intrinsically linked."

Organisations actively demonstrating their green values include Waitakere City Council. Mayor Bob Harvey believes it is increasingly important for business and individuals to walk the talk on the environment. "Waitakere's key word is sustainability and declaring ourselves an eco city in 1992 was a bold and innovative move and it's paid off. Waitakere is recognised for its sustainability effort locally, nationally and indeed globally. Through consultation we are creating a community where people want to live and that means having some shared values on the environment."

Grant Hall, from The Good Water Company which produces bio-degradable water bottles, adds "Although it's great to see that the public are becoming more discerning and educated about the products and services they consume, we still know that most people aren't prepared to support their beliefs in this regard, unless it is easy and generally no more expensive than the non-sustainable alternative."

Sarah Norrie of G2 says research like this has a strong business value. "These findings are invaluable to how we advise our clients strategically. We can see we need to assist our clients to ensure their environmental practices are actively demonstrated to their customers and that products with environmental solutions are what consumers are looking for. Clearly, based on these findings, there is an obvious disconnect and we need to ensure we work with our clients to ensure relevance and understanding in their marketing communications."


Full details on research findings attached

For more information please contact Suzanne McNamara Convergence Communications 021 933 331

Editors note:

* G2 is part of Grey Global Group, one of the world's largest advertising agencies with offices in 83 countries around the globe. The research findings are used to advise clients on potential marketing strategies.

* The sample is drawn from an internet research panel with over 125,000 NZ members. Samples are screened for eligibility, duplications and to ensure that they are representative. The sample size of 500 which was chosen to ensure a cross-section of New Zealand provides confidence in the conclusions reached but does not allow for detailed analysis for smaller subpopulations. It does allow breakdowns by age, gender and four locations.

* The surveying was carried out by well-known Australian survey company Sweeney Research, who has over 30 years of research experience.

Full findings * Nearly one third of New Zealanders (31%) are 'extremely' or 'very concerned' about the environment. Only 3% are 'not at all concerned'. The majority (75%) express some concern for the environment and the impact it has on their household. * New Zealanders are sceptical about the environmental track records of companies; 67% believe most companies are still not environmentally conscious and that they use the environment simply as a marketing tool * Having said this, we do want more from the business community. However only 6% of New Zealanders believe the environment will be a major issue in the next five years and 5% think global warming will rear its head. These two issues are well down the list of the major issues most people think will be topical before 2013.

* 54% of New Zealanders have changed the way they live in the last 12 months to help the environment, and 41% would pay more for environmentally friendly products and services. 65% say they will look for a more environmentally friendly model when replacing their next car.

* However 31% of New Zealanders say they are sick of hearing about the environment.

* Most New Zealanders are confused about carbon terminology; 62% say they don't know if carbon credits and carbon offsets mean the same, and 51% think carbon neutral and carbon friendly are the same thing. Despite this, most of us say we are concerned about our carbon footprint (62%)

* Females (33%) are more likely to be 'extremely' or 'very concerned' about the environment than males (29%)


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