A major study of more than 11,700 people across 19 countries shows that the demand for sustainable goods and services is becoming increasingly important in consumers’ purchasing decisions. The second Global Sustainability Study 2022* conducted by Simon-Kucher & Partners, a global consultancy, reveals that 56 percent of UK consumers rank sustainability as a top five value driver despite the cost-of-living crisis over the past year.
Attitudes towards sustainability continue to shift
In the UK, 75 percent of respondents report that they have changed their purchasing habits over the past year to be more sustainable. Though some of these changes might be modest in nature, the study showed a significant shift among respondents who previously identified their attitudes towards sustainability as negative or neutral, with this group now making environmental sustainability a higher priority when it comes to purchasing decisions.
Over two thirds of those surveyed (74 percent) in the UK indicated that over the last five years, their purchasing behavior and choices shifted towards buying more environmentally sustainable products. No country experienced a negative shift in this regard and only one, Germany, stayed flat year-over-year. The US and Norway saw the largest positive shift of 16 percentage points.
Willingness to pay more for sustainable products differs across industries, but is trending down overall
While the majority of those surveyed are not willing to pay more for sustainable products, 30 percent of UK consumers said they would be willing to pay more for sustainable products/services. Respondents indicated that they were most willing to pay a premium for sustainable goods and services when it comes to consumer goods (35 percent) and construction (30 percent) – they were least likely to pay a premium when it comes to energy/utilities (26 percent).
“Globally, prioritization and commitment to sustainability have increased for consumers since last year, however, many consumers now expect sustainability as standard and don’t think they should pay a premium for sustainable goods and services – interestingly, industries in which sustainability has been a highly relevant topic for a longer period of time are commanding the lowest premiums,” said Rosalind Hunter, Partner at Simon-Kucher. “This means that companies must adjust their business models to stay relevant to consumers.”
Both internal and external motivators are driving sustainable purchasing behavior, but consumers – and businesses – have several barriers to break through
While a sense of responsibility (65 percent) was the leading motivator for purchasing sustainable goods and services, followed by a fear of environmental damage (48 percent) and the benefit of younger generations (43 percent), respondents also indicated that the three primary barriers to sustainable purchasing were the lack of affordability (31 percent), lack of clarity on whether a product/service is sustainable (25 percent), and insufficient access to sustainable goods (24 percent).
Inflationary pressures around the world have also had a dampening effect on the purchase of sustainable goods and services – 34 percent of UK respondents said they were less likely to buy sustainable goods and services due to inflation pushing up prices and 33 percent said they were more selective about which categories (e.g. consumer goods, transportation, etc.) they would choose to pay for sustainable alternatives.
“With attitudes and behaviors towards sustainable consumerism trending upwards year over year, it’s clear that sustainability is not a fad and is here to stay,” said James Brown, UK Managing Partner at Simon-Kucher. “Consumers will continue to expect more from companies and those that don’t adapt and innovate, even in spite of hurdles such as inflationary pressures, will suffer in regards to their long-term profitability and viability.”
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