Green cleaning products

A survey released Wednesday confirms that Americans remain interested in buying environmentally responsible products even during the recession. Conducted by Boston communications firm Cone Inc., the finding is the latest in a string of surveys drawing cheery conclusions about green spending.

According to Cone, about 34 percent of 1,087 adult consumers said they are more likely to buy green-leaning products in the current economic climate, while 44 percent said their environmental shopping habits have not changed because of the economy. Only eight percent said they were less likely to buy earth-friendly products due to the downturn.

The survey — whose results largely dovetail with a January Boston Consulting Group study [PDF] that found interest in environmentally responsible products is growing worldwide, despite the economy, and a study commissioned by Green Seal that found 82 percent of respondents were still buying green — didn’t define “environmentally responsible” products or behavior, or ask respondents how they defined these things. Nor did it ask how much more shoppers were willing to pay for eco-friendly products.

Somewhat surprisingly, the survey found that Americans seem to have grown more trusting of companies’ environmental claims. Nearly two thirds (63 percent) of respondents said they trust companies to tell the truth in their environmental claims. A similar question in a Cone survey a year ago found only 47 percent of consumers believed such claims.

“We were really surprised by this,” said spokesperson Sarah Kerkian, “because we’re seeing general trust in businesses reaching record lows in other research coming across our desks.”

Mindy Gomes Casseres, Cone’s director of corporate responsibility, said companies may be growing less likely to fudge on their enviro claims for fear of being called out for greenwashing.

“The companies that aren’t paying careful attention to [their environmental claims] are getting nailed,” she said. “So we find there’s a discussion going on at the highest levels about how to do this right. We find that the companies that don’t think they can do it right are staying silent, rather than trying to advertise things that aren’t going to be credible.”

In one finding that could send a strong message to businesses, 70 percent of respondents indicated that they are paying attention to what companies are doing with regard to the environment today, even if they cannot buy until the future.

Jonathan Yohannan, Cone’s senior vice president of corporate responsibility, thinks that’s something companies ought to hear loud and clear: “Earth Day is right around the corner, and we’ll likely see many environmental campaigns hit the marketplace to capitalize on the event,” he said in a statement. “But companies must think beyond this singular occasion to develop authentic and long-term commitments, even as they weather the recession.”