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KNOXVILLE, TN - Despite a country deeply divided along social and political lines, a new survey finds most Americans agree on at least one thing: We need to save the planet.

The national survey, part of a special Eco Pulse report by Shelton Group, found the majority of Americans believe we deserve a clean planet, climate change is occurring and we all have a responsibility to take concrete steps to reduce our environmental impact.   

"Despite all of the fighting, anger and frustration in the United States today, Americans can find common ground when it comes to the environment," said Suzanne Shelton, President and CEO of Shelton Group, the nation's leading marketing communications agency focused exclusively on energy and the environment. "We all want the same thing -- a cleaner planet – and we agree that we must do our part to make that happen."

The new findings confirm a fundamental shift among Americans. A full 40 percent of Americans now believe "buying and using eco-friendly products is an important part of my personal image."

"Sustainability is becoming a much stronger part of how Americans identify themselves. It's clear that consumers want to be on the right side of this issue – and they expect the companies they buy from to be as well," Shelton said. "This presents significant opportunities for companies doing things the right way – and a threat to those that aren't."

The national survey, which polled 2,000 Americans in September and October, found:

  • 76 percent of Americans agreed: "People have a right to clean air and water."
  • 70 percent agreed: "We have a moral duty to leave the earth in as good or better shape than we found it."
  • 65 percent agreed that climate change is occurring, and it is primarily caused by human activity.
  • 88 percent agreed the average person should be taking concrete steps to reduce his or her environmental impact.

As part of its report, Shelton Group tested Americans' gut reactions to some overarching words and phrases used when discussing the environment.

"Science" was the word that Americans garnering the most positive reaction. Three-quarters (75 percent) of Americans feel positively about "science." Other words garnering positive ratings included "conservation" (with 71 percent rating it positively) and "sustainability" (with 69 percent).

And the lowest-scoring term in the survey? "Carbon footprint." Only 28 percent rated it positively.

Companies using the positive terms – words that unite Americans rather than divide them - can ensure their messages resonate with consumers and build brand loyalty.   

Shelton's advice to corporations: "Your brand's interaction with consumers is a relationship, and the key to any good relationship is aligning on values. That means identifying the environmental values that your brand embodies and communicating them in terms that engage consumers.

"It's pretty straightforward: Make a commitment to the environment, take action and tell the story of what you're doing and the impact you're making," Shelton added. "That's how you create a meaningful connection with consumers today." 

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