Green consumers – understanding how they tick

The Global Footprint Network has come up with a horrifying statistic based on an analytical report: if everyone in the world adopted an American lifestyle, we’d need not one, but five Planet Earths to provide all the resources (energy and raw materials) to sustain this standard of living.


The underlying factors used to work out this environmental footprint include Living & Energy, Consumption & Leisure, Food and Transport & Mobility. This analysis clearly shows that we are wasting fast-dwindling resources left, right and centre. Basing our figures on the German standard of living helps a little, but not much: by that reckoning, we’d ‘only’ need three Earths to manage... but we only have one!

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Fortunately, people are becoming more and more aware of this fact. According to a YouGov poll, over 70% of the German population say they are concerned about climate change in some form or other. The Fridays for Future movement, despite attracting much ridicule at the outset, has raised public perception of climate change to a whole new level. The pandemic has also led to an increased awareness of the issues at stake, as many people now perceive a link between how we tackle the environment and what has happened with Covid-19. So it’s hardly surprising that this topic has shot to the top of the search lists recently: interest has visibly rocketed since 2018.

Climate-related topics are also much more evident on media platforms. New formats are constantly coming onto our television screens, be it ‘Klima Update’ (Climate Update) on RTL News or ‘Green Seven Week’ on ProSieben. And searching for podcasts on climate change on Spotify brings up any number of results. Streaming services like Netflix and Disney Plus also commission an impressive array of documentaries to highlight the shocking truths about climate change. The Allensbach Institute has published a poll showing that the public now regard combating climate change and environmental pollution as their top priorities.

Environmental sustainability is now up there with economic and social sustainability when it comes to deciding what to buy. This is just one of the points that came out of the “Sustainable Media Management” report by Mediaplus and the University of Florida, winner of the emma Best Paper Award.


A Mediaplus review of the Best4Planning study also confirms this view. Similarly, there has been a significant upturn in the number of people who agree with this statement since 2019 based on a long-term assessment looking at the relevance of sustainability in the buying process.



In other words, sustainability aspects are playing a more visible role – even in the advertising sector. The number of campaigns promoting regional origin or climate-neutral aspects of products is rising steadily. However, over 40% of consumers still claim to know very little about the sustainability efforts of the various brands, even though transparent reporting of sustainability activities would not only increase brand loyalty in a majority of consumers, but also make them more likely to buy.

This is precisely why unsupported statements in relation to sustainability run the risk of being interpreted as ‘greenwashing’. Yet another finding from the study reveals that the necessary credibility can be achieved if the statements are backed up by corresponding labels or certification by external organisations.


Nor should the impact of advertising on credibility be underestimated, although this does depend on the selected medium. Consumers tend to regard banner campaigns and social media with an element of suspicion, whereas traditional media can boost the credibility of the message.


The main problem with social media is that there are no significant content checks, which means that people can basically claim whatever they like. More traditional and conservative forms of reporting tend to come across as more serious and trustworthy in comparison.

There’s no doubt that sustainability is a hot topic right now – and one which is increasingly relevant to customers making purchases. Nevertheless, there is often a disconnect between attitude and behaviour when it comes to making sustainable buying decisions. People may say they feel sustainability aspects are important when deciding whether or not to buy, but the way they behave at the point of sale may belie this. Sometimes, this may be because they are not prepared to pay more money for the added value. Or they may not know whether the products actually are sustainable, or the products may simply not appeal to them.

This is undoubtedly why it is essential for brands to identify their target groups meticulously and classify them accordingly. Not all sustainable purchasers are the same. They may range from mainstream customers who buy organic products on offer once in a while, right up to those who get actively involved and are truly committed to protecting the environment.

Our sustainabilty experts

Wolfgang Bscheid

Managing Partner Mediascale

"We all share the ambition to build our future in a better and more sustainable way."

As the initiator of our sustainability initiative, I see myself as a driving force. In order to achieve a sustainable future, we need specific and practical solutions. Our goal is to develop these approaches.

Dominik Kropp

Head of Knowledge Management Insights Mediaplus

"With the Green GRP initiative, we are contributing to the vision of a climate-neutral advertising market."

Climate change and sustainability have become enablers for consumer behavior. The pandemic has once again greatly increased the general awareness of the impact of individual consumption. In this context, I analyse trends and developments in the field of consumer ethics as well as the effects on consumer behavior. Based on the results I derive recommendations for our clients - in order to be prepared for the growing number of green consumers and their needs.

Please find out more about the Green GRP.

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