What Is the Greendex?

You've heard about it for years now—everyone’s interested in being green. But do you really know how your personal choices are adding up? What about the choices of your fellow citizens? What behaviors are people adopting globally that have a positive impact on environmental sustainability? What has changed—and what hasn’t—in the past few years?

This is the fifth time that National Geographic has partnered with GlobeScan to develop an international research approach to measure and monitor consumer progress toward environmentally sustainable consumption. The key objectives of this unique consumer tracking survey are to provide regular quantitative measures of consumer behavior and to promote sustainable consumption.

Why? We want to inspire action both among the millions that the National Geographic brand touches worldwide and among others who will hear about this study. A chief component of this effort is giving people a better idea of how consumers in different countries are doing in taking action to preserve our planet by tracking, reporting, and promoting environmentally sustainable consumption and citizen behavior.

This quantitative consumer study of 18,000 consumers in a total of 18 countries (14 in 2008, 17 in 2009 through 2012) asked about such behavior as energy use and conservation, transportation choices, food sources, the relative use of green products versus conventional products, attitudes toward the environment and sustainability, and knowledge of environmental issues. A group of international experts helped us determine the behaviors that were most critical to investigate.

The result: the 2014 National Geographic/GlobeScan Consumer Greendex, a scientifically derived sustainable consumption index of actual consumer behavior and material lifestyles across 18 countries. We will continue to track the Greendex over time, including comparability across the selection of countries representing both the developed and developing world.


Overall Results

Overall, we find that although environmental concerns have widely increased since 2012 and that climate change is presenting an increasingly felt threat to consumers, the pace and scale of uptake of sustainable consumption have remained too little over the past six years. Yet we have positive findings to point to. Compared with 2008, consumer habits have improved at least somewhat in all countries surveyed that year, except Brazil.

Top-scoring consumers of the 2014 Greendex study are in the developing economies of India and China, in descending order, followed by consumers in South Korea, Brazil, and Argentina. Indian and Chinese consumers also scored highest in 2012. American consumers’ behavior still ranks as the least sustainable of all countries surveyed since the inception of the Greendex study in 2008.

One particularly bright spot in 2014 is in the food category—something that all consumers can personally relate to. Our composite measure of food habits shows improvements from 2012 in 11 countries as more people embrace local and organic foods.

An exploration of consumers’ intentions to improve their habits in this year’s Greendex study also reveals that those in Latin America and India appear to be the most easily influenced to change when informed about their personal impact on the environment. Results also show that consumers who already display behavior that is relatively sustainable and are told that their behavior is above average from an environmental point of view are more motivated to improve their behavior further than are consumers who display less sustainable habits. This suggests that positive reinforcement is likely a powerful tool for enabling behavior change among consumers.

Changes in consumer behavior indeed seem to be under way in some areas. As part of our 2014 study we investigate why, and we ask how the social and economic dynamics at play can be fostered to affect other types of consumption.

Read the Press Release: Increased Fears About Environment, but Little Change in Consumer Behavior

To learn more, we encourage you to download the reports below.


Download a Copy of the 2014 Greendex Highlights Report (PDF)

Download a Copy of the 2014 Greendex Food Highlights Report (PDF)

The National Geographic/GlobeScan Consumer Typology: Which One Do You Belong To? (PDF)

Download a Copy of the Full 2014 Greendex Report (172 Pages) (PDF)

Download a Copy of the Full 2014 Food Report (168 pages) (PDF)

Explore the Greendex

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    Greendex Calculator

    Figure out how sustainable your own behavior is. Calculate your personal Greendex.

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    Knowledge Quiz

    Are you as savvy about the environment as you think? Find out in this quiz.

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    About the Study

    Learn more about the study components and methodology of this multiyear survey.

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The Great Energy Challenge

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    The Great Energy Challenge

    The National Geographic initiative is a call to action to become actively involved, to learn more and do more—to change how we think about and consume energy so that we can all help tackle the big energy questions.

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    Meter Your Personal Energy

    See how you measure up against others, and how changes at home or in travel choices could do tons to protect the atmosphere.

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    Quiz: What You Don't Know About Energy

    How much do you know about the power that keeps you cool in summer, cooks your meals every evening, and illuminates this computer screen?