It’s no secret that brands, regardless of industry, are constantly exploring new ways to incorporate sustainability into their products or business models. But there are still plenty of surprises coming from consumers when it comes to buying eco-friendly products.

The new “Buying Green” research report by Exal Corp. and Boston Consulting Group dives into how sustainability affects purchase decisions in consumer goods, and the data dispels some long-held myths. By understanding who’s buying green and how much they’re willing to spend, you can help your company meet customer and shopper demands, while developing your own corporate social responsibility strategies.

Myth #1: Going Green is a Millennial-Only Thing

While millennials, individuals between the ages of 26 and 35, are the most likely age group to seek information on recyclability and sustainability, they’re not the only ones who are looking for products that are less harmful to the environment. Nearly half (44%) of “Buying Green” respondents say the sustainability of packaging is a factor in their product selection decision, and — get this — consumers over the age of 50 are more likely to identify as environmentally aware (63%) than those under 35 (54%).

Simply put, tunnel vision that focuses on millennials can be bad for business. Investments in green products or sustainability practices pay off across your customer base. Gen Xers and Boomers are looking for eco-friendly packaging and products, too, and spending their hard-earned cash to bring them home.

Myth #2: Price Is the Priority for Consumers over Sustainability

While consumers of all ages are actively searching for sustainability information on their potential purchases, many companies are still hesitant to sell a product for which they’ll need to charge a premium. However, Exal’s new research shows that higher prices on eco-friendly products don’t dissuade most consumers. Rich and poor, old and young, urban and rural are all willing to pay more.

In fact, 55% of survey participants said they will spend at least 5% more for products in sustainable beverage packaging, and nearly half said the same for personal care items. Equally as eye-opening is the number of shoppers who are less likely to buy something in packaging considered to be bad for the environment: 57%.

This is evidence that pushing sustainability in your products doesn’t necessarily mean you’re sacrificing profit. On the contrary, it can be a huge driver for business. A recent study by Nielsen found that products incorporating sustainability-related language in three crowd favorite categories — chocolate, coffee, and bath — experienced twice as much growth of the weighted average of the three categories combined

Brands that tap into consumer needs can capture market share by clearly communicating how they are aligned in a commitment to sustainability.

Myth #3: Most Plastics are Recyclable

We know that less than 15% of plastic beverage containers are recycled. Even when plastic is put in the recycling bin, there is a limit to how many times it can be recycled before becoming unusable.

At the same time, plastic has become the poster child for ocean pollution, and the emotional impact of viral videos showing those negative side effects – large “islands” created by plastic waste or sea animals injured by plastic straws – are driving more consumers to more eco-friendly options.

The results of the Buying Green report support this. More than triple the number of respondents said they associate plastic with “ocean pollution” compared to aluminum. Similarly, the size of the group associating plastic with “waste” was more than double than that of those associating aluminum with it.

On that note, people are significantly more likely to associate aluminum with recyclability and eco-friendliness than plastic. While the metal’s reputation is shining over plastic’s image because of heightened public awareness and personal responsibility, increasing popularity can also be attributed to the trend toward buying products in higher quality, premium packaging.

If you’re in the packaging business, or your customers are, it’s important that you understand the benefits of using infinitely recyclable aluminum over plastic, from perception to recyclability.

We know that nearly half of consumers today are actively seeking information on the sustainability of products they buy and use. Our research shows that consumers care — and are willing to pay for — greener packaging. At the same time, there is a need for those of us in the industry to transparently address eco-friendly trends with product sustainability information on packaging, and to provide packaging options that meet consumer demand for sustainable and recyclable items. Not only will this be a win for consumers, customers and the future of our planet, we believe it also will drive profits. 

Download the entire report here: