The EY Future Consumer Index Survey reveals deepening concerns around inflation (96%) and climate change (84%) are pushing Canadians to change how they live and what they buy.
“Over the last few years, there has been a gap between intention and action for both companies and consumers in their efforts to address sustainability, but the real effects of environmental change on people’s lives is narrowing that gap and sparking a new wave of change,” says Monica Chadha, EY Canada Retail Leader. “As we head into the holiday season and beyond, we’ll see more shoppers take control and do their research to optimize for both economic and environmental benefits.”
Consumers are taking action by buying less
For the more than half of consumers who indicate they’re planning to buy less, 38% say this due to an effort to help the environment. Fashion accessories (60%) topped the list of product categories consumers plan to spend less on followed by toys and gadgets (52%) and clothing, footwear, beauty and cosmetics (48%).
“Extreme weather events, rising energy costs and continued changes to harvests and crops have meaningfully impacted prices and affordability —some consumers have already made switches out of necessity and more are likely to follow,” explains Elliot Morris, EY Canada Grocery and Consumer Packaged Goods Leader. “Consumer products companies can’t ignore the large percentages of Canadians who are changing their lifestyles and consumption habits in response to climate change and affordability concerns.”
Consumers are adapting to climate change-related needs
Nearly one-third of Canadians have had to change the food they eat because climate change has pushed up prices or limited the availability of products. This is pushing consumers to think differently, with 32% starting to consider buying products that can mitigate the effects of climate change.
Seeking ways to stretch their budgets, 41% of respondents plan to cook and entertain more often at home. This also means sacrificing takeout food, with 48% now planning to order less — a 15% jump from just over a year ago.
Generations act and spend differently on sustainability
Two-thirds (64%) of Canadians attribute their efforts to drive change to a personal concern for the fragility of the planet (up 8% from October 2022), there’s a clear generational divide when it comes to behaviours like using less plastic, recycling more or conserving water. Globally, 65% of baby boomers bring reusable bags to the store compared with just 43% of Gen Z, and 63% of baby boomers recycle or reuse packaging after use, compared with 48% of millennials.
On the flipside, younger generations in Canada are speaking with their wallets and double-checking company claims. One-quarter of Gen Z indicated that they are willing to pay for more sustainable goods and services compared with 6% of baby boomers. And 32% of Gen Z will check an organization’s sustainability policies online compared with 7% of baby boomers.
“People are more informed now about what sustainability means and have better access to information to assess whether a brand is living up to its promises,” adds Morris. “Companies need to get ahead and respond now by creating new products or reformulating existing ones to make them healthier and more sustainable, so they can protect their profitability and the brand experience.”
Learn more about the EY Future Consumer Index here.