New York, NY, 05.04.2023

US consumers are more skeptical about key sources of information on the environmental impact of products – GfK

In new research, US consumers expressed much greater skepticism about essential sources of information about the environmental effects of products in nine key categories – from packaged food to appliances to cars.

Compared to global consumers overall, Americans were less inclined to view news programming, local or national governments, advertisements, online reviews, advertisements, and other sources as “trustworthy” in reporting environmental impacts. The only exceptions were product labels, which US consumers were more likely to rely on when it comes to food, cleaning products, and two other categories.

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The new insights from GfK’s Green Gauge® research on people in 10 countries – including the US -- delivers category-specific perspectives on which environment-related features can sway purchase decisions (e.g. energy and water efficiency, minimal packaging, environmentally friendly production), as well as where people get their information about green products. Categories covered are:

  • Vehicles
  • Major domestic appliances
  • Small appliances
  • Home electronics
  • Personal electronics
  • Pre-packaged foods
  • Personal care & beauty products
  • Clothing

When it comes to pre-packaged food, for example, one-third (31%) of global consumers said that social media sites are trustworthy when it comes to understanding the environmental impact of these products, versus just 16% of Americans. (See Table 1.) Similar differences also surfaced for news programming and local or national governments.

Table 1. Trustworthy sources of information on the environmental impact of products – Pre-packaged food




Company websites



Social media sites



Online reviews






Family, friends, and other people



News programming or news websites



Product labels



Local or national government



None of the above



In addition, US consumers were more than twice as likely (15% versus 6%) to say that none of the eight sources measured were trustworthy. Only when it came to product labels were Americans more likely to trust an information source about pre-packaged foods. In fact, three quarters (72%) of Americans say that they are “interested in buying products that have labels with information about their carbon footprint/ emissions.”

Big generation gaps on trust

Many of the low US trust levels across categories are driven by consumers in the Boomer and Pre-Boomer generations, who are generally below average in trusting social media sites, news programming, advertisements, and other sources. For example, only 3% of Pre-Boomers and 7% of Boomers feel social media sites are trustworthy in reporting the environmental impact of major domestic appliances – significantly below the US average (16%) and less than one-quarter of the global average (31%).

By contrast, US Millennials and Generation Z are well above average in trusting social media sites in many categories and tend to be more engaged with the environment. But Gen Z frequently was below average in feeling company websites and product labels – possibly viewed as “official” sources of information – were trustworthy sources of environmental impact information.

“We know from research at GfK Consumer Life that consumer trust can be elusive for brands – but it is also critically important, especially when it comes to the topic of sustainability,” said Tim Kenyon, Vice President of GfK Consumer Life and director of the Green Gauge research program. “Easy access to trusted information is a basic tenet of sustainability marketing – something brands can and should focus on. In the US, a key element is having information available at the point of sale or on a product or package label – a source we found was uniquely trusted in this country.”

GfK Green Gauge® delivers an in-depth look into sustainability-related consumer trends, attitudes, and behaviors in over 20 countries. Now in its 31st year, Green Gauge combines up-to-date thinking with a historical view of consumers and environmental concern. Backed by the rich insights of GfK Consumer Life (formerly known as Roper Reports®), our study places sustainability in the broader landscape of consumer concerns and actions – showing how it fits within society’s other trends and forces.

Green Gauge also includes a profiling tool that segments consumers into five groups according to their environmental attitudes. The segments include:

  • Glamour Greens – use their green actions to boost their social status
  • Green InDeeds – most likely to work to help the environment
  • Jaded – skeptical about environmental concerns and activism
  • Carbon Cultured – pro-environment, but focusing on “easy” behaviors
  • Green in Need – willing to help, but lacking the tools to do so

The Green Gauge Plus study was conducted in 10 core global markets, with a minimum of 1,000 respondents interviewed in each market. Field dates were August 2 to September 18, 2022.

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