Warc Blog

US shoppers favour green, local brands

3 January 2013
NEW YORK: Over three-quarters of US consumers prefer buying from companies with strong corporate social responsibility credentials and which make goods in America, a study has shown.

Consumer Reports, a not-for-profit, found that 92% of its survey panel were more likely to trade with firms "giving back" to the local community upon choosing between similar products, a total standing at 90% for organisations which treat workers well.

A further 82% of participants agreed with this view for corporations supporting their preferred good causes, as did 79% for brand owners that engage in environmentally-friendly practices.

Fully 78% of contributors would also be biased towards purchasing items made in America, and 75% held this opinion for businesses with manufacturing plants in their home state.

Elsewhere, over 80% of interviewees concurred that protecting domestic jobs was a key motivator in buying American products, and 60% expressed concerns about child labour in other countries.

"Consumers need to understand that all jobs and wages are interconnected," said Jeff Faux, of the Economic Policy Institute. "When you buy foreign goods – and sometimes there's no choice – it means that fewer US workers will have the money to buy the goods and services you sell."

Overall, more than 60% of the sample would be willing to pay 10% extra for apparel and appliances produced in America, and some 25% pegged this price premium at 20%.

"On the one hand, US labor costs are often higher than in other countries," Casey Tubman, general manager of cleaning at Whirlpool, the appliances specialist, argued.

"But when you look at the higher productivity for American workers and consider the fact that it's very expensive to ship something as big as a refrigerator or washer, we can quickly make up those costs."

Moreover, a 61% majority of shoppers polled thought US-made clothing and shoes were better quality than foreign lines, with just 5% taking the opposite stance. Almost 60% had also tried to buy American brands in this category in the last year.

"When you consider all the factors, the true cost to manufacture goods from China will be only about 10% cheaper than to make them domestically in another few years," said Hal Sirkin, a senior partner at the Boston Consulting Group.

"China gets more expensive every year. By 2015, Chinese wages will average $6.15 per hour, still well below the US minimum wage, but American worker productivity is significantly higher."

Data sourced from Consumer Reports; additional content by Warc staff

 
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