Turning concern into action
While price may be the biggest barrier to some consumers buying sustainable products, others are happy to dip further into their pockets to help protect the planet. The most prominent sustainability-related features that people were most willing to pay extra for were:
- Packaging made from recycled materials (34%)
- Looking after animal welfare (31%)
- Using renewable sources of energy (30%)
- Reducing water and soil pollution (30%)
Almost six in ten (59%) would pay more for at least one of these four features.
One of the most important findings in the research is that consumers who care about sustainability want those who create and regulate the products that they’re buying to take action on their behalf. People don’t want to have to research the sustainability of all the different items on their shopping list and more than half of our respondents (56%) said they need more information to help them make sustainable choices when they shop. “We’re seeing brands and retailers have greater success when consumers not only trust that they’ve taken authentic, responsible action,” says Ward, “but then they’ve made it easy for consumers to use their purchasing power to do the right thing.”
A lack of clear, simple information is a key hurdle for consumers. While 79% say sustainability is at least somewhat important when making a purchasing decision, only two in five are prepared to figure out a product’s environmental impact for themselves.
Rather than being influenced by the opinions of family or friends, our Index found that a sustainability score on the label was the most likely factor to tip a purchasing decision. While some appliances have power or water usage star-ratings to indicate comparative performance, “the absence of easy-to-understand overall sustainability markers or labels makes it difficult for consumers to make an informed choice and for companies to make trusted claims,” says Fricke. “Transparent and robust scoring for sustainability is a clear gap in the market but it’s a hugely complex task and the challenges can’t be understated. Nevertheless, there are demands coming from consumers and companies need to find a solution to meet that demand.”
The Index showed that more than two in three consumers said companies must act as leaders in driving positive social and environmental outcomes, including ensuring all their suppliers meet high standards in social and environmental practices. Asked to choose the top three issues that brands should prioritise from the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (a set of global social and environmental issues that include ending poverty and combatting climate change), the clear frontrunner was the responsible production and consumption of goods and services, followed by decent work and economic growth, investment in industry, innovation and infrastructure, and combatting climate change.