New Sustainability, based on a survey of 2,001 adults in the UK, US, Australia and China, examined the future of sustainability across three pillars – environmental, economic and social.
It found that consumers around the world want both greater transparency and more sustainable options from brands. And it identified over 30 key trends in sustainability, from ‘mindful shopping’ to ‘natural wellbeing’.
Sustainability is imperative for brands, the report concluded, as values-driven consumers want to see them act in ways that don’t harm the planet. Yet brands should not expect too many plaudits for something that consumers increasingly see as the baseline.
The data showed that 89% of those surveyed ‘care personally’ about protecting the planet; 92% said they are trying to live more sustainably, while 83% would always pick the brand that has a better record of sustainability; and 90% agreed that companies/brands have a responsibility to take care of the planet and its people.
Crucially, 70% of respondents said they would be willing to pay more for products and services if they protect the environment and don’t infringe human rights.
But, these ‘mindful consumers’, as the report dubbed them, also said they can’t currently make informed choices: 86% believe there is too little information on product packaging for them to assess how sustainable they are.
The research also found that while consumers’ intentions are good, they often fail to put them into practice. Among the 89% of people who said they recycle at home, only 52% always do so. Out of the 85% who avoid single-use plastics, just 20% do so all the time.
Understanding this gap between intention and action is not straightforward, and unpicking the reasons is a major challenge for brands, the report said.
It quoted Ed Dowding, UK-based social impact entrepreneur and CEO of Represent.me, a CivTech company, who explained it’s likely we’re overestimating our good behaviour and downplaying the bad, persuading ourselves that we’re doing a good job while turning a blind eye to our transgressions.
“Just as we’re not very good at assessing risk, we aren’t very good at assessing impact,” said Dowding.
“We’ll tumble dry that one shirt because we want it in a hurry and totally ignore that, whereas we’ll congratulate ourselves for remembering to take a plastic bag to the shops. The impact of those two things is vastly disproportional, but we just aren’t aware of it.”
Sourced from J. Walter Thompson Intelligence; additional content by WARC staff