Just 10 percent of U.S. and U.K. consumers trust what companies and government tell them about global warming, according to “What Assures Consumers on Climate Change,” a joint international study by activist groups AccountAbility and Consumers International.

The report shows that three quarters of consumers still feel unable to act on climate change due to a lack of understanding about what individuals can do (29.8 percent), concerns over the financial cost of acting (39.7 percent), a perceived lack of availability of green goods (25.5 percent), and a mistrust of corporate claims about energy efficient products and services (25 percent). 

Consumers also have little faith in religious figures, celebrities or the media to provide trustworthy information on climate change. They would rather seek advice from friends and family, environmental groups and scientists.

The study concludes that, if the potential for positive consumer action is to be unlocked, then consumers have to believe the information they are told and recommends several steps that can be taken to improve the situation, including:
• pricing alternative products in a fair and affordable manner (39.7 percent of consumers support better prices for energy efficient products);
• product labels that are clear, comprehensive and independently verified (70 percent of consumers want third party verification of climate change claims);
• the removal of unhelpful choices from the shelves in the first place (51.5 percent of consumers back government action here);
• informing purchase decisions from remaining choices via education and awareness in-store (60.4 percent of consumers are demanding more clarification about company products at the point of sale).

Says Richard Lloyd, Consumers International director general, “After government and industry, consumers are the third front in the fight against climate change. But to have any chance of making a difference, they must be fully supported by corporations and politicians. This means clear guidance on what the public can do, the removal of the most environmentally damaging products, and third party verification of corporate 2 claims on global warming. Only then will consumers be able to turn their climate concerns into effective purchasing choices.”