Over here in the UK there has been increasing evidence that the credit crunch is causing green issues to slip down both the political agenda and personal values. Luckily, it is still up there on the corporate social responsibility front, as sustainability has become a key factor in recruitment.
I’m really interested to understand whether you are feeling the same impacts in the US? I have summarised the UK evidence here:
- According to MORI, 15 per cent of those polled last year put the environment in their top three concerns. That figure has dropped by a third to 10 per cent this month. Now people they put crime, the economy and rising prices at the top of their list.
- According to research company Populus: “There is a direct correlation between how people perceive the economy and the importance they place on the environment. When times are tough people resent paying more to salve their conscience.”
- This means that fewer people are now buying organic food from the supermarkets and more are buying cheap non-ethically produced clothing. For instance, according to the consultancy Organic Monitor, demand for organic food grew by 70 per cent from 2002 to 2007; now it has stalled.
- Green policies coming out of the government have now taken a back-seat to make room for discuss of tax-relief for those buying homes and a one-off tax levy on energy companies.
However, there is a counter argument to this:
- Energy prices in the UK are rising massively. It was reported last month, that due to the rise in oil price, UK consumers may face a fuel price increase of up to 40 per cent in 2008.
Leading market analysts have suggested that, in order to maintain profitability, energy companies may create a series of price hikes. This would result in an increase in the UK's average energy bills from £1,048 to £1,467 within seven months.
- The rise in energy prices is leading making people focus on cut costs, which has the incidental effect of being better for the environment. By taking energy-saving measures in the home, such as investing in better insulation, being more economical with the use heating and air con and being more aware of the use and efficiency of electrical and gas appliances.
- Fewer people are moving home in the current economic climate, and my therefore be more inclined to invest in their existing properties. Home improvements and extensions are becoming very popular in the UK, which may again incorporate energy-efficiency measures.
- Also, as fewer people move house fewer new white-goods, such as fridges and washing machines are being bought.
- With the rising cost of petrol and diesel more people are investing in hybrid or electric vehicles.
- The trend for people growing their own has risen sharply, in London the waiting list for allotments is three times longer than the actual number of allotments there are!
As The Times commented today, it is ironic that “it's the downturn that has made greenery look unappetising - but it may yet prove to do more than anything to save the planet.”