What do Britons think of eco-friendly products?
November 10th, 2021, Christien Pheby

What do Britons think of eco-friendly products?

COP26 is upon us, and the world’s leaders are gathering to discuss how to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change. Retailers have been getting in on the action: pledging to hit zero in terms of carbon emissions by 2035, joining the conference as partners, and launching new “eco-friendly” products.

But what do consumers actually think about products that have been designed to be environmentally friendly?

Are eco-products viewed as better quality?

Data from YouGov Realtime shows that it depends on the kind of product. From a qualitative perspective, Britons are most likely to think food and drink designed to be sustainable is of a higher standard (31% vs. 9% who believe them to be lower quality than standard versions) – with a plurality believing it is more or less the same (44%).

Vehicles – perhaps helped by high-end, high-publicity brands such as Tesla, as well as recent forays into the electric car space from existing luxury manufacturers like Jaguar – are also more likely to be perceived as better quality than worse (20% vs. 11%); again, the public are most likely to see them as the same quality (40%).

It’s a similar story with furniture: a fifth of Britons (20%) think a table made from reclaimed wood or a sofa made from recycled fabrics will be generally better than one not designed to be eco-friendly, compared to 12% who do not, and nearly half (47%) seeing no difference either way. Britons are also twice as likely to think cosmetics are better quality when they’re made in an environmentally friendly fashion (15% vs. 8%), with two in five thinking they’re broadly the same (38%).

The story is not entirely positive for environmentally friendly products. There are a few categories where items that have been designed for “sustainability” perform significantly worse than their non-green counterparts. Most notably, while nearly two in five members of the public think eco-friendly utensils (like wooden knives and forks) are a similar quality to non-eco friendly products (37%), the same proportion think they’re worse (37%) and just one in nine (11%) think they’re better. It may well be that many Britons have had enough of soggy paper straws. Likewise with personal care items (26% lower quality) and household items (27%): a quarter of Britons are more likely to think recycled toilet tissues, in this category are lower quality compared to just 13% who think the opposite.

Britons most likely to say eco-friendly household items, food & drink, and personal items offer worse value for money

When it comes to value for money, sustainable household cleaning items come bottom of the table: nearly two in five (37%) say the “green” versions of these products offer poor bang for buck compared to the non-eco-friendly variety, with just one in ten (10%) believing the opposite. A third say they represent the same value for money (32%). It is almost precisely the same story with personal care items such as recycled toilet paper and toothpastes (36% worse; 33% same; 10% better).

In every category, Britons are more likely to think environmentally-friendly products represent poorer value for money than better value for money (though in many cases the public do think they represent the same value for money). For example, a higher proportion think electric/hybrid cars are worse value for money than better – suggesting that they’re still seen as a luxury item by much of the public. Similar thinking may explain why more Britons think furniture and cosmetics are less financially competitive than their non-green equivalents.

In any case, for much of the public, it may not be enough for a product to be “environmentally friendly”; in many of these categories, a significant proportion think they are worse quality and worse value for money. The question for brands, then, is whether or not they can make these products more attractive to consumers – while meeting their ambitious environmental targets.

See the full results here