Global Trend

Sustainable Consumption

From aspiration to behavior change

With the global population expected to rise to 8.5 billion by 2030 and an ever-growing middle class increasing by three billion people over the next 20 years, ensuring that global consumption remains in line with planetary boundaries will be critical.

Concern about the environment is increasing worldwide and consumers — most notably millennials and Gen Z — are feeling anxious about the state of the planet. In response, they are increasingly ‘voting with their wallet’ and choosing brands whose values align with their own. While there is still a broad gap between intention and action, a growing body of data is emerging that more and more consumers are actually following through with their intentions. At the same time, many others, despite their best intentions, are not in a position to be able to buy more sustainable products, either due to time or money constraints. To close this aspiration-behavior gap, sustainable living needs to be made more affordable, with a need for greater systemic support to enable behavior change at scale.

2020 Forecast

We’ll continue to see a growing number of companies respond to changing preferences by providing products and services that enable consumers to live more sustainable lifestyles, driving global sales of sustainable products. Going above and beyond simply responding to consumer demands, we also expect more businesses to proactively strive to catalyze  large-scale, tangible behavior change, recognizing that consumers themselves are one of the biggest levers of sustainable consumption.

Signals to Watch

  • According to a recent study of 25,000 consumers in 25 countries conducted by GlobeScan, there is still a large gap between people’s intention to live sustainably and current behaviors. More than 54% of respondents said that living in a way that is good for themselves, others and the environment was a major priority but only 37% said they currently lived this way.

  • According to recent research from NYU Stern’s Center for Sustainable Business into sales of consumer packaged goods in the US, 50% of growth from 2013 to 2018 came from sustainably-marketed products.

  • Earlier in 2019, Pinterest revealed a surge in user searches around sustainability, with “sustainable living” the most searched term (up 69% since 2018) and searches for “sustainable living for beginners” up 265%.

  • According to a survey by ING, a majority (71%) of UK respondents agreed with the suggestion that slower economic growth would be a price worth paying to protect the environment. Most respondents also acknowledged the problem of overconsumption in their home countries, with 64% of Brits, 64% of Americans and 60% of Australians saying people in their country are excessively focused on consumption.

  • In 1990, some 8.1 tons of natural resources were used to satisfy a person’s need, while in 2015 almost 12 tons of resources was extracted per person.

“Over decades of consulting citizens worldwide, we have never felt a moment of more urgency and opportunity for brands to connect with their customers on the topic of healthy and sustainable living. We think the co-benefits are unprecedented.”
Eric Whan, Director, GlobeScan

Source: IPBES

Advice for Business

  • Review your product portfolio: What percentage of your products are sustainable and help customers live healthier and better lives? How are these performing compared to the rest of the business? Integrate sustainability into your core products, don’t just add new lines.

  • Beyond products, review how your company is using its influence with customers to catalyze large-scale behavior change.

  • Review your sustainable transport policy. What is enabling employees to travel more sustainably? How can you reduce air travel? Are you offsetting emissions generated by company travel?

  • Don’t just consider the impact of individual products, make sure you are considering the sustainability of a system as a whole. Avoid solving one problem by creating another.

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