The changing story of sustainability 

Sustainability matters to the public.

Yet despite consumers’ commitment to sustainable consumption being stronger today than ever before, many have found it difficult to make daily decisions that have a true sustainable impact. As a result, we have not seen the revolutionary change in consumer and business behavior that was once anticipated.  

Why is that?

Consumers want help to live and consume in a sustainable way. They also believe the responsibility to create a more sustainable economy lies with governments, retailers, and manufacturers. Unfortunately, examples of greenwashing and inaction from brands and retailers means they have varying levels of trust in these parties to deliver. 

Time is not on our side.

As the strain that climate change is placing on businesses and economies becomes more evident, there is an accelerated need for industries and companies to change the way they operate. Soon, sets of mandated governance will make it compulsory, not voluntary, for large companies and organizations to deliver validated sustainability action. The requirements will become more demanding, and regulators have clearly shown that they intend to police this space and force action. 

This change is also accompanied by extreme weather events and climate realities that have made the financial implications of inaction an increasingly heavy burden on balance sheets for companies. Exploding energy costs, crop failures, and supply chain disruption are all forcing companies to future-proof existing business models or bear uncertainty and increased cost implications. 

The next five years promise dramatic change as businesses transform to meet new demands and realities. Balancing the requirements of both governments and consumers will demand authentic action in an environment of unparalleled scrutiny.

Role of governance and mandates

New financial reporting requirements and legislation from governments are coming down the pipeline. An increase in sustainable investments is expected and companies that are not able to comply with new standards will be a risk of potential fines and higher taxes or trading restrictions.  

Increasing costs due to the impact of climate change 

Extreme weather events will disrupt supply chains and force the cost of goods and energy to increase. 

Shifting consumer demand and attitudes 

With products becoming more expensive and scarcer, consumers will face issues with the cost of living and the availability of their preferred items. This will lead to shifting values and attitudes around sustainability. 

The government

40% of consumers believe their government is MOST responsible for making sustainability progress in their country.

74% agree governments should increase regulations to enforce business to move more quickly to adopt sustainable practices and meet climate targets.

The farm

Responsible sourcing is one of THE MOST important sustainability claims to 45% of consumers.

31% of consumers completely trust farmers in their sustainability efforts—the second most trusted group of any party.

24% of consumers want brands to increase their use of ingredients produced in a more sustainable way (e.g: lab grown; sustainable feed for animals).

The factory

47% of consumers are very likely to choose a particular brand if it has health benefits for them as well as the planet.

Consumers want brands help to be more sustainable by offering sustainable products at a comparable price (46%) and making labelling easy to understand—be that for sustainable claims (45%) or recycling (41%).

But quality and efficacy is key, as 1 in 3 are unlikely to buy a sustainable brand if quality is not as good as non-sustainable alternatives.

35% of consumers state it would be easier to be sustainable if brands used locally sourced products with a lower carbon footprint in production.

77% say they would stop buying products from a company that had been found guilty of greenwashing—highlighting the importance of trust and transparency not only in communications but in the whole supply chain.

The store

35% of consumers believe sustainability has become more important to them because products/ services have become more expensive due to extreme climate events.

Yet the cost of sustainable options is the biggest barrier to buying sustainably for 41%.

26% of consumers find it difficult to find sustainable options on shelf.     

44% of consumers are very likely to choose a particular retailer if they incentivize them for recycling/reducing waste and 39% are very likely to choose a retailer that is known for a wide assortment of sustainable options.

45% of consumers want retailers to help them be more sustainable moving forward by reducing plastic packaging or using more compostable packaging and 40% by increasing the range of cheaper sustainable offerings.

The home

Sustainability has become more important to 30% of consumers because they have been personally impacted by climate events.

33% believe living sustainably has become an important priority in their life that they try to activate daily.

Almost all consumers (95%) try to take some action to live sustainably.

– 49% bring their own shopping bags for groceries. 

– 47% only buy what they need to avoid waste. 

– 45% consciously separate garbage from recycling. 

– 45% minimize electricity usage.  

Looking ahead 

The next five years will see accelerated action from companies as they scramble to meet increasing requirements around reporting, visibility, and to reduce their carbon footprint. At the same time, they face unpreceded challenges to existing business models as extreme weather events impact both their bottom line and their consumer base who will increasingly demand greater transparency and traction in sustainable offerings. 

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