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Shelton Group, the nation’s leading marketing communications firm entirely focused in the sustainability and energy efficiency sectors, announced today the release of its sixth annual Eco Pulse™ study. The findings about America’s “greenest” consumer segment might surprise you.

“Our findings from this study show that we can’t think of Americans who buy green products or gravitate towards green companies as ‘green consumers.’ They are actually the most desirable target audience for any company – and they happen to be purchasing greener products from greener companies,” said Suzanne Shelton, founder and CEO of Shelton Group. “They make up 24 percent of Americans, are affluent early adopters and the most brand-loyal segment. They’re willing to pay more for a brand they trust, they shop frequently, and they like having shiny new ‘green’ things.”

Shelton calls this group “Actives,” and they are values-driven shoppers. Through their purchases they are creating an outward extension of their internal values. And these values most strongly align with protecting the environment, helping others, social justice and equality. Actives also like certifications and expect manufacturers to address all of their concerns – not just about what’s in the product, but also about how it’s made and its life cycle impact. Their brand loyalty is born out of connecting the dots from their values to brands and companies that align with these values and offer a sense of community and meaning.

“As the economy improves, more Americans have the luxury of worrying about the environment again,” said Lee Ann Head, VP of Research and Insights at Shelton Group. “These findings will help companies align their marketing activities and product designs with things this powerful group of consumers cares about the most. And, depending on your target audience, it may be time to add an environmental driver to your messaging mix.”

The latest Eco Pulse findings also show that Americans, because of economic recovery, seem to be re-prioritizing the environment and green buying. The study explores how Americans buy green products and their perceptions of corporate social responsibility initiatives, along with emerging issues like water conservation, reuse and alternative ownership/collaborative consumption. Specifically, the study shows:

A sustained increase in agreement with the statement, “Global warming, or climate change, is occurring and is primarily caused by human activity,” with 58 percent (compared to 48 percent in 2010) agreeing or strongly agreeing with the statement.

Water is an emerging issue due to decreasing availability and looming price increases that will come with long-delayed infrastructure improvements. Yet Americans are still slow to adopt water-conserving behaviors.

Corporate reputation continues to increase in importance in purchase decisions, and both a reputation for making green products and a solid environmental reputation can have an impact at shelf.

Consumers care both about how products are made and about the content of the products they buy. For example, there’s increasing concern about chemical content in a variety of non-food products.

Only about a quarter of Americans most often buy used and/or repair items rather than buying new items. Nine percent said they barter or swap rather than buy through local networks or online, and only 5 percent participate in a borrowing membership rather than buying.

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