UK consumers embracing more sustainable behaviour

10 January 2022 Consultancy.uk 4 min. read
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UK consumers are increasingly ecologically-minded. Fewer than one-in-ten customers now say they are not at all concerned about environmental sustainability when it comes to the products they engage with.

While consumers can only play a small role in comparison to world leaders, or global businesses, consumer consciousness around climate issues has grown exponentially, and the public is determined to do its part. With customers pressuring businesses to make their products more sustainable, many companies might be dreading the costs and challenges this will incur – but they should also be aware this presents opportunities too. For example, nearly nine-in-ten consumers have become greener in their purchasing in the last five years, offering companies a major opportunity to tap into sustainability demand.

UK ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY: ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERN

Now, a new study from Eden McCallum among roughly 1,000 consumers has further supported this. Six charts from the research demonstrate a growing awareness among consumers, which businesses should not ignore.

As it currently stands, only 8% of people in the UK do not concern themselves with sustainability in their consumption habits – while 61% said they were either concerned, or very concerned. Many consumers are already practicing what they preach in their own lives. In the UK, 68% see personal decisions – on energy usage and insulation – as important, while diet and eating habits are seen as important by 56%.

UK ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY: EXTENT OF SUSTAINABLE BEHAVIOUR AT HOME

UK consumers are also taking steps to negate the impact of their travel on the environment. The majority were now avoiding trips that required planes at least some of the time – with just under half of them doing this ‘often.’

Meanwhile, a further 46% said they were walking instead of using a car, bus or train. Very few noted they would cycle though – and only 23% suggested cycling would be relatively regular as a mode of transport; perhaps reflecting the UK’s long-neglecting bicycle infrastructure, where dedicated cycle lanes are few and far between.

UK ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY: EXTENT OF TRAVELING MORE SUSTAINABLY

At the same time, consumers in the UK were increasingly weighing up alternative diets to improve their carbon footprint. Fewer than one-fifth of the respondents said they never avoided specific ingredients which were damaging to the environment. Successful campaigns to get consumers to divest from ingredients like palm oil have meanwhile seen 40% of consumers avoid specific ingredients often.

On top of this, more and more consumers are turning away from the meat industry. While only 7% said they are always vegan, a further 31% said they at least sometimes adopted a vegan diet, and the same number said they regularly avoid red meat like beef and lamb.

UK ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY: EXTENT OF EATING MORE SUSTAINABLY

However, as they exhaust these methods, many consumers are turning to consider what larger organisations they are stakeholders in can do to prevent climate change, and ecological destruction.

More consumers said that what companies do, and what governments do, make the most impact on environmental sustainability. Around 79% of consumers said government actions were important, followed by 76% regarding companies, and 72% for individual actions.

UK ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY: EXTENT OF BUYING MORE SUSTAINABLY

At present, 36% of UK consumers are often or always choosing brands with good sustainability credentials. More specifically though, 34% were reducing the among of new products they purchased on a regular basis. A further 44% regularly also chose products and brands including recycled or compostable packaging.

While these numbers may still seem comparatively low to some businesses, they may be a sign of bigger changes to come. As a result, firms which take the hint and plan to adapt sooner rather than later may be better positioned to take advantage of consumers becoming even more conscious of sustainability.

ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY: PENETRATION OF SUSTAINABLE ALTERNATIVES VS CO2EQ IMPACT

The researchers mapped over two dozen consumer actions to reduce emissions, and found out that those with highest impact or still relatively rarely used. It may not stay that way for long, though.

Sara Ghazi-Tabatabai, Associate Partner at Eden McCallum, said, “Concern among consumers has not yet been transformed into concerted action among all age groups, or mass change in behaviour, particularly in the most impactful areas. The challenge for responsible business leaders will be to work out where they can innovate boldly and encourage customer preferences to develop.”