Consumers demand environmental action from brands
Almost 80% of consumers have switched or boycotted buying products in the last year, or are thinking of doing so, due to a brand’s environmental reputation.
New research from Kantar, the world’s leading data, insights and consulting company, reveals that over 70% of UK consumers agree that the response from businesses to tackle environmental damage to our planet is ‘too little, too late’, with younger generations of Millennials agreeing most with this statement (78%).
Almost 90% of respondents surveyed agree that brands need to take more responsibility for the waste they produce and the impact it has on our environment, while three-quarters also agree that due to inaction from many of the world’s governments, consumers are looking towards brands to act as forces for positive change in society.
Kantar questioned over 1,200 UK consumers between the ages of 16 and over 65 about their concern over a range of environmental issues, their purchasing decisions based on a brand’s sustainability credentials, environmental responsibility and whether, as a consumer, they had ever decided to boycott buying a product or switch to another brand based on its environmental reputation.
Mark Chamberlain, managing director of Brand, Kantar UK said: “Responsible living is being driven by cross-generational groups of ‘woke’ consumers that look towards inspiring brand heroes as change leaders. Governments and organisations are being forced to listen and respond to consumers’ demands for greater transparency as businesses strive to become more purposeful.”
Switch, avoid or boycott?
Worryingly for many businesses, over three-quarters of consumers (77%) said that in the last 12 months, they had switched, avoided or boycotted buying certain products, or might consider doing so in the future, based on their view of a brand’s sustainability and environmental policies, such as their stand on harsh working conditions, environmental pollution and overuse of packaging. Brand loyalty based on these credentials was lowest among the youngest cohort with 87% of 16-24 year-olds saying that had switched or might do so.
Consumers across all age groups ranked global warming as their number one environmental concern (25%), followed by the overuse of plastic and other forms of packaging (18%) and then deforestation and the loss of biodiversity (14%). They appeared less concerned about the depletion of the ozone layer (4%), extraction of fossil fuels from the earth and natural resource depletion (5%), overfishing of our seas (6%) and household/industrial waste (8%).
Despite being described by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the single largest worldwide killer, only 11% rated air pollution as their number one environmental concern. Unsurprisingly, concerns regarding air pollution were highest in Greater London (16%) but remained lowest in the northwest and southeast regions of England, which, according to Friends of the Earth, have some of the highest toxic air levels outside of London.
These and many other of today’s environmental issues are caused, in part, by a lack of responsibility taken by some of the world’s leading brands, according to 83% of consumers; a sentiment expressed most among 25-34-year-olds (88%).
Chamberlain added: “The rise in responsibility and conscious consumerism is being influenced by a top-down approach as the consumer voice grows and pushes forward environmental and social agendas.
“Consumers now expect businesses to be driven by some direction other than simply making a profit. These values are fast becoming key assets in helping boost brand value whilst projecting a positive corporate image, and by doing so businesses can demonstrate a clear sense of purpose. This is what consumers are now looking for in today’s brands, and this preference will only intensify as the next generation comes of age. Purpose-led brands enjoy stronger growth and a deeper connection with consumers with such positioning proving to be a key driver of marketing success.”
UK brands such as Finisterre and Divine Chocolate are examples of businesses that are able to earn greater trust from consumers due to their genuine commitment to becoming more transparent, respect for the environment and improving working conditions.
The most-loved brands will be those that attempt to achieve a zero-carbon footprint by re-thinking operations and finding solutions that are fully sustainable both for the environment and the business bottom line.
Other key trends
- Plastic problem – Over half (53%) of consumers rank the overuse of plastic and other types of packaging as one of their top three environmental concerns. More women than men are concerned about it (58% vs 49%), with 45-64 year-olds expressing most concern across all age groups (60%).
- Buying decisions – 82% of 25-34 year-olds say they sometimes or always check a brand’s commitment towards sustainability, the environment and saving the planet before making a purchase.
- Taking responsibility – Almost 90% of consumers agreed that brands need to take more responsibility for the waste their products create and the impact it has on the environment, with 50% ‘strongly agreeing’. This sentiment was strong across all age groups (>82%) and was highest among the 65+ cohort (92%).
- Younger generations – Those most concerned with the issue of global warming are the 16-24 year-olds, the youngest age cohort in the research with 65% ranking it as one of their top three concerns; of those, over one-third said it was their number one concern.
- Boycotting brands – 76% of consumers said they had boycotted buying certain clothes, had switched brands in the last 12 months or were thinking of doing so because of a brand’s environmental policies; in both FMCG and fashion, more males had switched, avoided or boycotted brands than females; almost half of all ‘baby boomers’ (49%) said they might consider boycotting certain fashion brands – the highest among all age groups.