2017 State of Sustainability in America®


15th Annual Consumer Report

2017 State of Sustainability in America®

An annual consumer research study devoted to understanding consumer values and behaviors across health, the environment and corporate social responsibility, and their impact on purchase


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Summary Table of Contents



This report is the fifteenth annual U.S. report NMI has published on the state of the sustainability market, providing unparalleled insight and expertise in what drives this market and how to communicate with consumers, and identifying the strategic opportunities. It describes how consumer attitudes, behaviors, psychographics and lifestyle activities are evolving and changing as consumers try to become increasingly aligned with a more sustainable lifestyle.

Many companies have been involved and are becoming more involved in the sustainability space, taking measures to ensure they are mindful of their impact on society, the environment and local and global communities. Some uncertainty arises for companies, however, in how to measure what type and how much of an impact, if any, these sustainable initiatives are having. This report discusses how sustainable initiatives adopted by companies and brands can impact consumers’ initial trial, purchase intent and willingness to pay a premium and ultimately provides background and consumer insights to begin the ROI journey.

In addition, the intent of this report is to provide a solid overview of where the current sustainable marketplace stands, in addition to...

  • how consumers interact in the green marketplace
  • how segments within society view sustainability differently and what motivates this differentiation
  • how companies’ sustainable initiatives can effect their bottom line
  • what are some of the barriers to being 'green'
  • what are the opportunities for future growth

We hope you enjoy this report. It is this knowledge and insight that provide the basis for identifying and uncovering opportunities in the Sustainability marketplace.

Executive Overview

  • Sustainability has moved from what some viewed as a fad, to what has become a fundamental cultural shift. Those companies not engaged in the space will be squarely behind their competition as sustainability concerns are only poised to grow over the coming years. Ignoring this trend only gives the competition more time to establish market leadership.
  • Demand for product transparency is on the rise, and brands that fulfill this demand by providing comprehensive product information from sourcing to manufacturing to “cause” efforts are positioned to gain favor.
  • Consumers are also more interested than ever in aligning their personal values with the brands they buy, raising the bar for companies to clearly define and articulate their values. If consumers are aware that companies are mindful of their impact on society and the environment, it positively impacts their trial and repeat purchasing behavior along with price insensitivity.
  • Specific consumer segments in the population exhibit various shades of green that are led by the “greenest” segment, the LOHAS segment, who is integral in driving sustainability to the mainstream.
  • Since each consumer approaches sustainability somewhat uniquely, not all sustainable products will resonate with all consumers. Understanding consumers’ nuances and defining characteristics is important to develop the most effective messaging.
  • Globalization will drive the need for more alignment of fair labor practices, ecosystem protection, sustainable farming, energy resourcefulness and many other practices.
  • Water conservation and water quality are top concerns for consumers and are fast becoming major economic, political and social issues – companies will need to respond with a range of initiatives and innovations.
  • Consumers are significantly more likely to feel that “no one” is currently protecting the environment, creating an opportunity for the establishment of such a leader.
  • Consumer skepticism regarding a company’s sustainable efforts prompts consumers to seek solid proof of their legitimacy – make sure “transparency” is front and center as consumers evaluate company claims and messaging with more scrutiny.

U.S. Sustainability Consumer Trends Database® (SCTD) Overview


database overview lohas report

  • Quantifies the size of the consumer market for environmentally and socially responsible products and services
  • Measures the importance of environmental and societal issues as well as corporate social responsibility
  • Explores environmentally conscious behavior
  • Determines consumer usage of sustainable products and services
  • Annual tracking study in U.S. since 2002 and globally since 2005


  • 4,000+ U.S. adults in 4th Qtr. 2016, nationally projectable to the U.S. adult population and accurate at the 95% confidence level to +/- 1.2%
  • Conducted online
  • 60,000+ U.S. consumers in database
  • Conducted in 23 countries; 150,000+ global consumers interviewed
  • Throughout this report, compound annual growth (CAG) is calculated and shown as available and relevant
  • Statistical significance at the 95% confidence level between mutually exclusive groups is indicated with capital letters

Definitions of Groups Within the Report

GP - General Population U.S. Adults 18+

Millennials - born 1977-1998 (Ages 18-37)

Gen X - born 1965-1976 (Ages 38-49)

Boomers - born 1946-1964 (Ages 50-68)

Matures - born 1900-1945 (Ages 69+)

LOHAS - a segment of consumers defined as "Lifestyles Of Health and Sustainability"

LOHAS Leaders - the portion of LOHAS consumers who exhibit the highest integration into the sustainable lifestyle

LOHAS Followers - the portion of LOHAS consumers who are highly engaged in the sustainable lifestyle but show lower integration than the Leaders due to some price sensitivity and uncertainty

Sustainable Mainstream - consumers within the population that fall in the NATURALITES, DRIFTERS, or CONVENTIONAL segments who are adopting some sustainable attitudes and behaviors and feel somewhat empowered they can make a difference

All data is sourced from NMI's Sustainability Consumer Trends Database® (SCTD) unless otherwise noted

We hope you enjoy this report. It is this knowledge and insight that provide the basis for identifying and uncovering opportunities in the Sustainability marketplace.


Table of Contents



Definitions of Groups

U.S. Sustainability Consumer Trends Database Overview

Executive Overview


NMI's Sustainability Segmentation

Five Distinct Segments within the Population

Overview of the Sustainability Segments

Product Adoption across Segments

Key Differences between Sustainable Mainstream and LOHAS

Sustainability Product Process

Sustainable Mainstream Overview

Early Adoption across LOHAS Segment

LOHAS Leaders and Followers

Sustainable Attitudes among LOHAS Leaders

The LOHAS Consumer Profile

The NATURALITES Consumer Profile

The DRIFTERS Consumer Profile

The CONVENTIONALS Consumer Profile

The UNCONCERNEDS Consumer Profile

LOHAS Geographic Distribution

Demographic Summary across Segments


The Return on Investment of Sustainability Initiatives

Sustainability as Part of the Business Equation

Forces Driving the Need for Sustainability Initiatives

Consumer Perceptions of Sustainable Companies

Perceptions of Cause Marketing

Corporate Practices which Drive Purchase

Corporate Practices which Suppress Purchase

Influence of Corporate Practice on Purchase

Skepticism of Corporate Initiatives

ROI Choice Model Methodology

Premiums Willing to Pay across Categories

Level of Premium Willing to Pay for Food/Beverage

Level of Premium Willing to Pay for Clothing

Level of Premium Willing to Pay for Household Cleaning

Level of Premium Willing to Pay for Appliance


Consumer Perceptions of the Environment

Environmental Issues Consumers Care About

Biggest Environmental Issue We Face

Environmental and Social Issues of Concern

Environmental Issues Compared to the 1970's

Steps Taken to Curb Plastic Use

Concern for Environmental Issues which Are Visible

Global Warming Attitudes

Concern Regarding the Presence of Chemicals in the Environment

Personal and Planetary Connection


Product Integrity

Attribute Importance Toward E-Friendly Purchases

Interest in Green Versions of Product Categories

Concern about Chemicals in Consumer Products

Willingness to Pay a Premium for Product Attributes

Willingness to Pay a Premium for Brands "Doing Right Thing"

Certification Alignment with Personal Values

Confusion Regarding Certifications and Seals

Perceptions of Products Made in Foreign Countries

Environmental Packaging Preferences

Environmental Impact of a Product Lifecycle

Online Purchasing vs. Brick and Mortar Purchasing

Willingness to Sacrifice for E-Friendly Products


Personal and Corporate Action

How "Green" Consumers Perceive Themselves

Current and Future Environmental Actions

Recycling Behavior

Participation in Environmental Behaviors

Local vs. Global Cause Support

Impact of Peer Pressure

Apathy Towards Environmental Action

Trust in Types of Companies

Interest in Company Corporate Actions

Ratings of Companies' Corporate Citizenship

Perceived Leader in Environmental Protection

Perceptions of Who Should Be Doing More for the Environment


For more information, kindly contact Steve French at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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