Consumer distrust of household chemical manufacturers is as strong as the manufacturers' belief that they are delivering safe, reliable and innovative products, according to a new study from UL (Underwriters Laboratories). UL Environment, a business unit of UL, predicts that the consumer wariness revealed in the study will influence industrial cleaning practices in healthcare, schools and other public buildings.
UL surveyed consumers and manufacturers in the U.S., China, India and Germany. "Navigating the Product Mindset," explores the differing perceptions of consumers and manufacturers on issues of safety, innovation, performance and sustainability.
"When 65 percent of consumers believe the cleaning products of today are no better than those of 5 years ago, those perceptions are going to spill over into industrial cleaning," said Mark Rossolo, director of public affairs for UL Environment. "With consumers becoming more knowledgeable about products used at home, they are bringing that knowledge to the buildings where they work, to the schools where they send their kids and to healthcare facilities. And they're asking facility managers and other decision makers about the impacts of industrial cleaning products."
Science-based sustainable product certifications, such as those offered by UL Environment, help facility and procurement managers provide objective data about the products they're using in public and commercial buildings. This can provide assurance – not only to institutional purchasers, but also to product end-users and consumers – that a cleaning product's environmental health claims are trustworthy and credible. And that, in turn, helps bridge the gap between consumer distrust and industry perceptions.
"As a manufacturer of both commercial and residential cleaning products, we do see the interest in healthier, more sustainable cleaning solutions carrying over from residential sector to the institutional sector - namely, schools and universities," said Chad Nordhagen, director of marketing at Bona US. “It's all about establishing trust with our customers ... That's why we've pursued and achieved third-party certification for both our commercial and consumer products. Credibility is credibility, any way you slice it."
Some key insights from the study include:
- Household chemical manufacturers rank themselves at or ahead of the curve in product reliability, product safety and product innovation. Yet, consumers remain most concerned about product safety and believe products have not improved over the last 5 years.
- Nearly two-thirds of consumers surveyed do not believe manufacturers thoroughly test products before they arrive on store shelves.
- On average, 73 percent of consumers do not believe that household chemical manufacturers have taken adequate steps to ensure that environmentally friendly manufacturing procedures are followed.
- Household chemical manufacturers say it's their responsibility to communicate safety information to consumers. And 90 percent list product safety among the top three factors impacting their ability to effectively compete. Yet, 64 percent of consumers say product safety information is difficult to locate.
- Household chemical manufacturers agree that consumers are becoming more empowered. For example, 81 percent agree that consumers are becoming more aware and better educated about products in general and 77 percent agree that consumers are demanding more eco-friendly products at the same cost as non-eco-friendly products.