It’s the planet, stupid

Source: ICM/Guardian 2008

Andrew Curry writes:

One of the more interesting pieces of data to be published this month was the result of a Guardian/ICM poll which showed that a majority of UK adults thought that it was more important to deal with environmental issues than the economy. Interesting, because the notion that people always turn back to financial self-interest when times are tight is so ingrained that my first thought was that the poll must be wrong.

But maybe not. Looking at the poll through the lens of our 2007 Green Consumer Segmentation (summary here), there are high degrees of consistency. The segmentation generated five segments: two small activist groups (about 8% of the population); a larger group, ‘Positive Choosers’, representing 31% of the population, who were informed about ethical and environmental issues, and expected companies and organisations to act on them; a fourth segment, the ‘Conveniently Conscious (35%), who are environmentally and ethically informed, but don’t tend to act unless choices are framed from them; and finally a group of Onlookers (26%), who are unaware or sceptical. The point is that the top three groups are all more likely to prefer that the government tackles environmental issues – and so is some of the fourth group. From this perspective, the 52% figure seems completely plausible.

There were also strong degrees of consonance between the ICM research and our findings. For example, both pieces of research find that young people and older people had the highest levels of environmental concern (with a sag in the age cohorts between), that women had slightly higher levels of concern than men, that there was a poor correlation between socio-economic class and environmental concern, and that there were relatively few differences between different regions of the UK. With one notable exception: in the South east, Britain’s richest region, 52% say the economy matters most, compared to only 38% of Scots, perhaps more evidence to undermine the widely held idea that environmental concerns are a product of affluence.

And as it happens, the Green Consumer Segmentation has just won an Atticus award from our parent company, WPP, for being one of the best pieces of work in the area of ‘Market Research and Insights’ across the whole group worldwide last year. The Atticus competition, named for the Cretan storyteller, is designed to encourage and promote new thinking across the company. We’re delighted, obviously.

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