Most Canadian consumers doubt green-branded products are as kind to the environment as they claim, and many dislike the extra cost and effort to shop sustainably, according to a new survey.
Deloitte questioned 311 Canadian consumer business leaders, and surveyed 1,008 Canadian consumers online, in April. The results show a “major disconnect” between shoppers and companies over the quality and value of sustainably-branded consumer goods, Deloitte said in an accompanying report.
“From fair-trade coffee and grass-fed beef to electric vehicles and ethically made denim, consumer brands’ claims of providing sustainable products and services have grown in number—and controversy,” authors wrote in research published on Thursday.
“Consumers don’t trust brands and their sustainable products as much as business leaders think. They’re confused and frustrated by the proliferation of sustainability claims, and resent the work they need to do to try and make sense of it all.”
According to Deloitte, 57 per cent of Canadian consumers don’t believe most “green” or sustainable claims they see while shopping. Nearly half (46 per cent) said they’re not willing to pay extra because of how hard it is to tell if such claims are real. Most (94 per cent) said it’s a company’s responsibility to sell products that don’t harm the environment. Sixty-one per cent said they shouldn’t have to think about sustainability while shopping.
More than half of consumers see little difference between sustainable and standard products in terms of qualityDeloitte report, June 2023
Deloitte points to high-profile cases of corporate greenwashing as a major force behind the lack of trust. For example, last year, the Competition Bureau hit Keurig Canada with a $3 million fine for making false or misleading claims that its single-use K-Cup pods can be recycled. In one of the largest examples, Volkswagen AG was ordered by a Canadian judge to pay a $196.5 million fine in 2020, after the company pleaded guilty to dozens of diesel emissions violations.
“The lack of transparent, trustworthy information is impacting consumers’ buying behaviours,” the report’s authors wrote. “More than half of consumers see little difference between sustainable and standard products in terms of quality.”
The situation looks rosier from inside Canada’s corporate boardrooms. According to Deloitte, business leaders think the public has a significant (71 per cent) or moderate (28 per cent) level of trust in green and sustainable branding.
Deloitte also found higher prices due to inflation reduced the number of Canadian consumers who’ve purchased at least one sustainably-produced good or service from nearly 50 per cent in September 2021, to 37 per cent 18 months later. However, it said 62 per cent of Canadians showed a willingness to pay a premium of 20 per cent or more for products that meet their claims as buying green goes mainstream.
Jeff Lagerquist is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jefflagerquist.