SOURCE: Horizon Media

April 22, 2015 08:07 ET

Interest in Earth Day Dips, Even Among the Most Environmentally Committed

Despite Mainstreaming of "Green," Fewer Consumers Embrace Holiday This Year

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - April 22, 2015) - According to new research from Horizon Media's Finger on the Pulse research panel and Distillery social listening practice, enthusiasm for Earth Day is on the decline and consumer skepticism about "greenwashing" from brands has surfaced.

Earth Day, which falls on April 22nd every year, may be losing its cultural currency. The agency's latest study shows a slight drop in consumer interest and importance placed on the holiday. About two in ten consumers (23%) say they will be celebrating Earth Day this year, whereas in 2014 that number reached almost three in ten (27%). Even among those who will participate in Earth Day events, the importance they place upon the day has decreased more sharply: this year, just 79% of celebrators call the holiday important, while last year over 9 in 10 did.

While everyday environmental actions remain steady, there's been a slight drop in overall concern for the environment and desire to use spending power as a form of environmental action. Both this year and last, 66% said they take steps in their everyday life to preserve the environment, including actions like recycling, turning off lights and conserving water; however, just under 6 in 10 (59%) today say they are "personally very concerned about the environment," as opposed to 7 in 10 in 2014. Also last year, more than half (56%) said they prefer to purchase from companies who align themselves with environmental causes, even if it costs a bit more. This year it dropped to four in ten (40%).

To better understand potential drivers of the year over year attitude gap, Horizon's Distillery social listening team analyzed organic social media conversations about Earth Day and other environmental topics. Online conversation shows that some consumers are becoming increasingly weary of what they perceive as "greenwashing" -- companies spending more time and money claiming to be "green" through marketing rather than implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact. Illustrating this theme are tweets like "Brands with terrible environmental histories celebrate #EarthDay #greenwashing" (via Twitter) and comments like "'Sustainable' is just a marketing scam" (via FinancialPost.com).

"Brands that get involved in Earth Day events and sponsorships must first tend their gardens, so to speak," said Kirk Olson, VP TrendSights at Horizon Media. "The mainstreaming of 'green' has made environmentalism more ordinary, but it has also created a savvy public more primed to dig up dirt that belies corporate intentions. That means even the best event integrations or sponsorship plans could backfire if company behavior doesn't match the cause."

Apart from the skeptics, a relatively small but faithful group of Earth Day participants are still keen to see brands get involved. They use social media as a megaphone for talking up the day: "Why wait until April 22nd to celebrate Earth Day? Everyday should be earth day," (via Facebook); "looking forward to #earthday...why is #climatechange not given press every day?" (via Twitter). Yet even with this apparent enthusiasm, Earth Day participants mostly want to see brands recognize the holiday in ways that require little effort on their part. The top three environmentally friendly actions they want from brands include planting trees (61%), making donations to environmental causes (51%) and offering environmentally friendly products (51%). They are much less eager to partake in a volunteer effort organized by a brand (40%).

"Earth Day and environmentalism are clearly not dead," says Olson. "But our research suggests that as green causes proliferate, consumers expect brands to carry the financial and activist burden on their behalf. This fits with other cause-driven 'buy to give' behaviors, like choosing Toms shoes. And consumers don't expect making these pro-social buying choices to cost them more."

For Earth Day celebrators, easy and low-cost conservation tactics also top their list of personal actions for the day: 44% plan to recycle, 42% plan to conserve water, 41% will turn off lights, and 39% will plant trees, flowers or other plants.

About Horizon Media
Horizon Media, Inc. is the largest and fastest growing privately held media services agency in the world. The company was founded in 1989, is headquartered in New York and has offices in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Chicago. Horizon Media was chosen as 2011 Independent Media Agency of the Year by Mediapost, 2010 U.S. Media Agency of the Year by Adweek, Brandweek, and Mediaweek as well as by Ad Age and as one of the world's ten most innovative marketing and advertising companies by Fast Company in 2011. In 2012, Bill Koenigsberg, President, CEO and Founder, was honored by Advertising Age as Industry Executive of the Year. Most recently, in 2014, Bill Koenigsberg was named 4As Chair of the Board and is the first person from a media agency to hold this prestigious position in the 100 year history of the 4As, the marketing industry's leading trade association.

The company's mission is "To create the most meaningful brand connections within the lives of people everywhere." By delivering on this mission through a holistic approach to brand marketing, Horizon Media has become one of the largest and fastest-growing media agencies in the industry, with estimated billings of over $5.2 billion and over 1000 employees.

The company is also a founding member of Columbus Media International, a multi-national partnership of independent media agencies. For more information, please visit horizonmedia.com.

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