Just 43% of respondents agreed with the statement "If I learned that a product I regularly use was not eco-friendly, I would stop buying it." At the same time, 43% said they would pay more for a magazine printed on recycled paper, while 39% said they would pay more for a magazine committed to eco-friendly practices.
The magazine industry has been paying new attention to its environmental impact and to reader attitudes about the environment. The subject of sustainability took the main stage for the first time at the American Magazine Conference earlier this month, and Active Interest Media's Backpacker magazine gave a presentation to attendees demonstrating how it had reduced its carbon footprint to below that of the average cheeseburger.
The Economist tapped the Institute for Sustainable Communication to measure its own carbon footprint. Others have begun to acknowledge that their annual green issues could, perhaps, be a little greener themselves. "Let's be honest," read one editor's letter in this year's green issue of Complex. "As businesses go, we're rocking a size-14 carbon footprint." The industry began the year by going national with a consumer campaign encouraging people to recycle their magazines.
The Hearst study, a joint project with Mediaedge:cia, was partly meant to see whether readers cared about -- or even believed -- all the environmental posturing in marketing today. "It showed us that consumers really are interested," said George Janson, managing partner and director of print at the agency.
Asked what they'd done about their environmental concerns, respondents cited a variety of steps such as buying low-energy light bulbs, paying bills online and buying products made from recycled or biodegradable materials.
Nearly three-quarters of respondents, however, said they agreed that "green" claims in advertising aren't necessarily true.
"You can't fool people and just slap a green logo on your ad and call yourself green," Mr. Janson said. "More and more, consumers want specifics about what companies are doing."
Jeff Hamill, senior VP for advertising sales and marketing at Hearst Magazines, said the study suggests that eco-friendly marketers should make sure consumers know they're truly green. "While sometimes skeptical of green advertising claims," he said, "a high percentage will support companies and products that they feel are environmentally focused and responsible."