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Consumers Strive for Sustainable Living, and Companies Can Help

Sarah Hutcherson headshotWords by Sarah Hutcherson
Consumer Trends
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A report released by the strategy consulting firm GlobeScan indicates that "eco guilt"—anxiety around what one should and could be doing for the planet—lives on. 

The report found that while 54 percent of people across 25 countries say that living in a way that is good for themselves, others, and the environment is a "large" or "major" priority for them, only 37 percent say they "mostly" live this way now, according to the survey. The countries with the highest percentage of citizens who view climate change as a "very serious" problem are Mexico and the Philippines. The countries with the lowest percentage of respondents who view it as a problem are Russia and China—the first and fifth largest emitters of carbon worldwide

In the report, younger generations—Generation Z and millennials—expressed the most significant interest in living healthier and more sustainably while also polling the most concern about not living consciously enough.  

The report is an outcome of a partnership among GlobeScan, Ikea, VF Corporation, WWF International, Procter & Gamble and Visa to better understand consumer behavior regarding sustainable living.

"We want to use the insights from this and other studies to enable many people to live more sustainable lives, and at the same time contribute to societal change through innovations and new collaborations," Lena Pripp-Kovac, head of sustainability at Inter Ikea Group, said in a public statement. "Our ambition is to make sustainable living affordable, attractive, and accessible for the many people with thin wallets."

Barriers get in the way of sustainable living 

The report indicates that many citizens worldwide, across different cultures, want to do better when it comes to shopping ethically and sustainably. But barriers to such action—including affordability, not enough government or business support, and not understanding how to live a more sustainable lifestyle—are not being addressed to allow for faster adoption.

The No. 1 barrier, high price, is a reminder that even though 90 percent of U.S. millennials are willing to pay more for products beneficial for the environment, a premium pricing strategy may not go mainstream globally. 

"I would like to eat organic foods and local products/services more because I believe that will be very good for our environment, health and economy," one participant, a female with two children who lives in South Africa, responded in the report. "What limits me is money."

Companies should incentivize healthier and more sustainable lifestyles 

An interesting take-away from the report are the findings around the subconscious and conscious drivers that contribute to individuals' sense of living a healthy and sustainable life. Significant factors—healthful food, shopping ethically and avoiding packaging and plastics—require companies to reward behavior or to develop creative business strategies to decrease consumers' feelings of eco-guilt.  

The first method to empower the consumer is to reward their good behavior. Companies should encourage consumers' healthy and sustainable actions that they perform frequently through incentives and rewards programs—think eating locally produced food or buying a socially responsible product, according to the report

One example is Amazon Day—an option that allows the world’s largest online retailer’s customers to choose one day a week for non-urgent items to be delivered. In exchange for accepting the less carbon-intensive shipping option, Amazon offers digital credits for future purchases, as explained in Forbes.  

The second strategy is for companies to enable consumers to live healthier lifestyles by rethinking their procurement practices and supply chains to empower eco-minded customers. Loop—a global circular shipping platform—is an excellent example of enabling customers to act on their eco-guilt with a profitable solution.

Or, take Scandinavia Airlines' biofuel program that enables eco-conscious customers to purchase biofuel at any time up until departure for 20-minute blocks of a flight time, according to Fast Company. Such an initiative puts the power back into the hands of the consumer to act on their eco-guilt and take steps towards traveling sustainably. 

"Consumers want to make positive changes in their lives but they need help from businesses and governments," Cristianne Close, Markets Lead at WWF said in a public statement. "This research shows there's a huge opportunity to shift markets and economies toward supporting a better future for people and nature."

Image credit: Louis Hansel/Unsplash

Sarah Hutcherson headshotSarah Hutcherson

As a recent Bard MBA Sustainability graduate, Sarah is excited to be a contributing writer to TriplePundit to demonstrate how environmentally and socially responsible business is synonymous with stronger returns and a more sustainable world. She is most intrigued with how to foster regenerative food systems, develop inclusive and democratic workplaces and inspire responsible consumption.

Read more stories by Sarah Hutcherson

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