Supermarkets must increase their efforts on ecological issues if they want to persuade their customers they are truly green, according to a poll carried out exclusively for The Grocer.

Despite attempts by retailers to promote their many environmental initiatives, 49% of respondents to the poll said they still felt supermarkets were not doing enough in this area.

The Harris Interactive survey of 1,038 shoppers found that consumers most wanted to see action on packaging.

More than eight out of 10 (84%) of those asked agreed there was too much unnecessary packaging used for products found in supermarkets, with 62% agreeing strongly with this view.

A large number of respondents also felt suppliers should bear their responsibility in this area, with 88% agreeing that they should do more to reduce packaging for the products they sell to retailers.

But Tesco, which has launched a number of green initiatives, such as its plastic bag-free home delivery service, bristled at the suggestion that it was not doing enough to reduce packaging.

A spokesman said the company recognised there was too much packaging on many goods and was addressing this with a pledge to cut packaging on all products by 25% by 2010.

He also claimed people did not always understand how packaging itself could actually reduce waste levels.

"The role that intelligent packaging can have in reducing food waste - food which would otherwise decompose in landfill - is rarely recognised," he said.

"So while it would superficially seem an attractive option to simply remove packaging, it's far smarter to work with suppliers and the packaging industry to develop intelligent solutions that reduce the materials used in packaging and preserve the stringent food quality and safety standards our customers have a right to expect."

The survey also examined attitudes to plastic bag use and found that, although plastic bags were predictably the most common means of carrying shopping home, just 48% of respondents said they used new carrier bags every time they went shopping.

A quarter of shoppers said they used a supermarket 'bag for life', instead.

Younger consumers (16 to 24-year-olds) were most likely to go for convenience over ethics, with 61% using new plastic bags when they shopped.

But charging for plastic bags was an unpopular measure, the survey showed, with only one third of respondents believing supermarkets should do so.

Of those willing to pay for plastic bags, about 10p was thought by most to be a reasonable price.

Caterina Gerlotto, associate director at Harris Interactive, said the survey demonstrated consumers were responding positively to publicity about the impact of bags on the environment and moves by the government and industry to reduce this.

"It's really encouraging to see a majority of consumers rejecting new plastic bags at supermarkets," she said.

n The Grocer is holding a conference on carbon labelling and food miles on 26 September. For more information visit