Canada in the middle in global poll on environmental concern

Canada came in just below average – higher than the US, but well behind China

A new global poll of consumers in 23 countries suggests Canadians are middle of the pack when it comes to concern over the environment and how their shopping choices affect it.

But the poll of 28,000 people by the international survey firm GfK still found that most Canadians believe companies need to be environmentally responsible and try to reflect those values when they spend their money.

“We have a sizable number of Canadians that really put issues around environmentalism and corporate responsibility around environmental responsibility front and centre,” said Angelo Pierro of GfK Canada.

The poll, conducted online and face-to-face last summer, asked respondents a series of questions about how they reconcile their environmental beliefs and their consumer habits.

Around the world, 76 per cent of respondents agreed that companies and brands should be environmentally responsible.

But the poll suggests a wide divergence between different countries, ranging from 93 per cent agreement in India and only 58 per cent in Japan.

Canada came in just below average at 73 per cent – higher than the United States at 66 per cent, but well behind countries such as France, Brazil, Russia and China.

The story was similar when respondents were asked if they feel guilty when they do something that harms the environment. The global average was 63 per cent, 10 points higher than the Canadian average.

Asking respondents if they only bought products and services that corresponded to their beliefs repeated the pattern. A 63 per cent global average fell to 55 per cent in Canada.

Pierro said a distinct pattern began to emerge. Rapidly developing countries with large, urbanizing populations such as Indonesia consistently scored higher on the questions than settled, industrialized nations.

“It’s interesting countries on the developing side are demonstrating a lot higher sensitivity to topics around environmental responsibility compared to some of the western democracies,” he said. “It seems like some of these developing countries are very concerned about this.”

Still, Pierro points out the poll suggests environmental concern is important to consumers in almost every country it examined.

“More than half of our population shows strong agreement around things like environmentalism and social responsibility. Half of our population wants decisions that respect the environment.

“I think that’s something policy-makers have to take into account.”

Based on its methodology, GfK says it has a 95 per cent confidence level in its results.

The poll was released in advance of Earth Day, held on Wednesday. Pierro said its results should interest both political policy-makers and businesses looking to harmonize its marketing strategies with the beliefs of its customers.