Environmental degradation is hitting the headlines, says writer Katie Young. News articles and documentaries around rising seas, declining air quality and shrinking animal populations are more common than ever. A couple of moments stand out in particular. In Australia, it was the War on WasteTV program, while in the UK, David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II series sparked a cultural shift around plastic consumption.
Sales of reusable coffee cups and water bottles took off, plastic straws were banned in many bars and restaurants, and brands like Evian and Coca-Cola promised packaging made from recycled materials. The impulse to “go green” is clearly gaining momentum. According to a recent bespoke study carried out in the UK and America:
From free-range meat to vegan skincare products, millennials are regularly considered to be the ones driving the sustainable movement with their lifestyle and behavioral changes, says the report. Often coined the “Green Generation”, many brands are starting to see the appeal and opportunity in these changes.
Over 60% of Millennials (aged 22-35) are more likely than any other generation to say that they would pay extra for eco-friendly or sustainable products, compared to 55% of GenX(aged 36-54) and just 46% of baby boomers (aged 55-64), says the report. Figures for GenZ. are only likely to grow as its members’ disposable income grows, says the report.
As a society, we now have a level of understanding of the damage being done by our “throwaway” culture, says the report. But whose responsibility is it to initiate change? asks the report. The consumers surveyed in the UK and U.S. admittedly felt most responsible for the future of the planet, but 52% believed responsibility lies with manufacturers or production bodies.
Although high proportions choose reusable bags, bottles and recycle, just 34% of those surveyed actively avoid products that are harmful to the environment, like plastic straws or cutlery.
CPG brands, in particular, will face increasing pressure and expectation to initiate change, says the report. When determining the “greenness” of different product categories, consumers are most likely to research cleaning and personal care products. This could be down to the assumption that eco-friendly products are more natural and better for their health, which is also likely to be why food is highly researched, presumes the report.
62% of eco-conscious consumers in the UK and U.S. believe eco-friendly products are better for their health. For household products, in particular, there’s been a recent movement away from products that contain harsh chemicals following reports that many household products have toxic chemicals linked to health problems.
With plastic waste currently at the center stage, it’s logical that CPG brands experience most of the pressure at the moment, says the report. Consumers aren’t as considerate when buying products from other categories, like electronics and travel, mainly because the environmental impact of these products hasn’t had the same amount of publicity.
Less than half of eco-conscious consumers research clothes, shoes and bags before buying them. In reality, the fashion industry, in particular the low-cost, high-volume fast-fashion retailers, is one of the biggest culprits. Water pollution, toxic chemical use and textile waste are just some of the costs to the environment that result from our love of fast fashion. But consumer awareness around the environmental impact of fashion is still relatively low.
What we know for sure, says the report, is that the environment should be at the top of every business’s agenda. Over the coming year, the pressure to be green is set to expand into new product categories, and brands need to start seeing this as an opportunity rather than an obstacle, concludes the report.