‘You make it, you recycle it’: Half of Americans think big corporations have responsibility to be sustainable

NEW YORK — Just as the popular retail motto says “you break it, you buy it,” there may be pressure on corporations to adopt a similar philosophy. “You make it, you recycle it” should be the modern-day responsibility for corporations, according to a new survey. Half of Americans claim major companies need to be accountable for climate action, results show.

A poll of 2,000 U.S. adults revealed 48 percent think corporations should be held more responsible for the waste their products generate. Moreover, 63 percent believe it’s important for companies to have a strong stance for sustainability and nearly as many (62%) agree they should be the leaders in sustainability efforts and climate action.

Respondents shared the actions they would like to see companies take regarding their waste stream: safely and securely destroy hazardous materials (59%), reuse and recycle materials when possible (58%) and make products with recyclable materials (53%).

Six in 10 (63%) believe companies that are sustainably focused can make a difference in the global climate crisis, and 62 percent predict companies will put more effort into sustainability within the next five years.

(Photo by Lara Jameson from Pexels)

Being eco-friendly is a priority for millions of consumers

Commissioned by Covanta, an innovative resource in sustainable materials management, and conducted by OnePoll, the study found three in five are inspired by eco-friendly companies and 58 percent are more likely to shop from a company that sustainably manages the waste their products generate.

For four in 10, sustainability is the “most important” factor to them when it comes to shopping. Forty-six percent believe items made from recycled materials are better than traditionally manufactured items. Meanwhile, 45 percent would be willing to spend more money on products that are sustainably made than those that aren’t. Over half (56%) are also more likely to shop from a company that uses recycled materials in its products.

“It’s clear that a majority of individuals care about the environment and want to take actions to fight climate change, but there’s a major challenge in the way,” says Chief Sustainability Officer Tequila Smith at Covanta, in a statement.

The results also found that 91 percent of Americans take part in some sort of sustainability practice either in their home or neighborhood — recycling everything that they can (65%), bringing their own bag while shopping (51%) and recycling their electronics (44%).

“Corporations have a massive impact on the environment, whether they’re aware of it or not, adds Smith. “And it’s in their favor — as well as in the favor of the planet and its people alike — to be responsible for the waste they generate. They can achieve this by utilizing sustainable service options that maximize product reuse that contributes to the circular economy.”

Yet despite the large number of people who take part, 54 percent believe their personal sustainability actions have little to no impact on the environment at a larger scale.

Fifty-three percent said they’d be more inclined to be sustainable in their own home or neighborhood if they saw a large company take a stronger stance on climate action. 

Many respondents said they have a positive view of companies that make sustainable products (40%) and provide support for their surrounding communities (40%).

“Aside from the ecological benefits, companies should come to realize the other, lesser-known benefits that come from taking meaningful actions towards sustainability,” continues Smith. “There is a clear ‘want’ people have for products made sustainably and a level of inspiration that people gain when they see a company they like doing something good for the environment.”

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 general population Americans was commissioned by Covanta between March 21 and March 23, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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Sophia Naughton

Meet StudyFinds’ Associate Editor, Sophia Naughton. Sophia graduated Magna Cum Laude from Towson University with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication directly focused in journalism and advertising. She is also a freelance writer for Baltimore Magazine. Outside of writing, her best buddy is her spotted Pit Bull, Terrance.

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