Insights Article

Green is the New Black: Exploring Consumer Choices in a Climate Conscious Era
5th April 2024
Woman choosing products in ecological shop with healthy food and reading product information on label

Our 2024 Sustainability infographic explores consumer behaviour regarding sustainability and offers insights into how brands can strategically position themselves in response to escalating environmental concerns.

Some key takeaways:

  • The global CPG market is expected to add $3.18 trillion in value in 2024, hitting $18.94 trillion by 2031
  • 64% of consumers globally are worried about sustainability
  • However, 38% of UK consumers state that environmental concerns are not a factor when making purchasing decisions, illustrating a disconnect between consumer intent and actual spending behaviour
  • Price and distrust are two major factors behind this disconnect – over half of people believe that sustainable is synonymous with being more expensive, and 54% of people think that most companies exaggerate their sustainability credentials
  • Brands can win by investing in their corporate social responsibility strategies and making this an integral part of their brand ethos
  • Critical to this success is ensuring you have a thorough understanding of your consumers key purchase drivers and values

The global consumer packaged goods (CPG) market is expected to add a staggering $3.18 trillion in value in 2024, reaching $18.94 trillion by 2031 (Statista). As it becomes increasingly clear that a passive approach towards climate change is no longer enough, the expansive scale of the CPG market underscores the pivotal role it has to play in building a more sustainable future.

Consumers are increasingly likely to say they want the brands they shop with to prioritise sustainability and back up their commitments with tangible actions – 64% of consumers globally are worried about sustainability, and this rises to 79% in major markets. In response, CPG companies have been allocating increasing amounts of time and resource to becoming more socially and environmentally responsible, so much so that their efforts form a central part of their communications and brand identity. However, there are a number of instances where brands have launched sustainable products only to find that sales fell short of expectations – think Nike’s “Considered” range of environmentally friendly shoes or Clorox Green Works. So why is there a disconnect? Do consumers really care whether products are environmentally friendly? Does intent always translate into buying behaviours? Are there other factors at play that need to be considered?

Although consumer concern for the environment is growing, 38% of UK respondents state that environmental concerns are not a factor when making their purchasing decisions (Clusters, 2023). There are a number of factors that play into this – namely price and distrust. For many of our respondents, although they valued sustainability, they were significantly influenced by product pricing, and sustainability was synonymous with being more expensive. For example,

43% of our respondents said that they value sustainable tourism but 58% agreed that sustainable travel sounded like it would be more expensive. Unsurprisingly, amidst current cost pressures, only 25% of people said they’d be willing to pay a premium to off-set their carbon footprint.

Additionally, there is widespread scepticism about a brands sustainability claims, with 54% of people thinking that most companies exaggerate their sustainability credentials. Combined with a lack of standardisation in reporting, brands can make claims that are misleading or exaggerated, making benchmarking difficult and increasing confusion for consumers who are deciding who to shop with. As new regulations designed to make reporting consistent and mandatory are introduced, it will become increasingly important for brands to not only prioritise their ESG efforts, but to communicate their strategies both internally throughout their organisations, and externally through their marketing communications.

Regulations can increase the cost and complexity of doing business, but they can also represent opportunities for growth. Studies have shown that investing in corporate social responsibility can boost sales of sustainable products (J. Doorn et. al, 2021), especially if products are able to make multiple claims. Similarly, sales are positively impacted when environmentally friendly products are manufactured by brands who are perceived to have a robust corporate social responsibility reputation. There’s evidence, therefore, to suggest that consumer sentiments regarding sustainability can translate into actual spending behaviour as long as brands make a considered, consumer centric ESG strategy an integral part of their brand ethos. Critical to this success is understanding the market landscape and your target consumers key purchase drivers, so your business can develop products and messages that meet the needs of the customers you want to attract.

Download our infographic

For more insights and information on consumer choices in a climate conscious era, download our infographic and get in touch with us today.

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