Younger consumers most likely to change their lifestyle in response to climate concerns, Kantar sustainability study finds

Kantar, the world’s leading data-driven analytics and brand consulting company, today releases Sustainability Sector Index, a landmark study that maps consumers’ sustainability attitudes and behaviours against the UN sustainable development goals.

The report reveals that just under one in three (29%) of global consumers is among the most actively engaged in climate and social issues when it comes to their shopping behaviour.  The Americas has the highest percentage (33%) of “active” consumers – those who are most engaged and prepared to invest time and effort to reduce environmental footprint, followed by Europe (31%), Asia (30%). Middle East and Africa (MEA) has the lowest percentage of ‘actives’ – those most engaged in sustainability (19%) – and the highest percentage of ‘dismissers’ – those least engaged (22% vs 15% in every other region).

In the findings, Kantar identifies a significant generational shift in environmental behaviour. Younger consumers (aged 18-34) are more likely than older ones to walk the talk and actively make changes to their lifestyle in response to climate concerns, such as avoiding products which use excessive amounts of water in their production, buying second hand or becoming vegan/vegetarian. This contrasts to the actions of older consumers (aged 55 and over), who tend to fit try to fit behaviours into their existing lifestyle.

Based more than 34,000 interviews around the world, Sustainability Sector Index gives an unparalleled insight into consumers’ sustainability attitudes and behaviours. It also finds:

  • 63% of consumers believe businesses have responsibility to act on climate change.
  • Cost is the most commonly cited barrier to making sustainable choices in all regions; 80% of consumers globally say their mind is more on saving money more than saving the planet.
  • Hunger and poverty is the single issue which most concerns consumers globally, as well as those in Europe, MEA and the Americas, while in Asia the top three concerns are environmental issues (water pollution, air pollution and extreme weather events.)

Sectoral focus

The study also uncovers the most pressing issues that brands must address in each sector of the economy, finding:

  • Consumers expect financial services businesses to deal with tax evasion, financial illiteracy, and economic inequality. Companies can stand out and gain commercial advantage by tackling poverty and hunger.
  • In the food industry, retailers and producers are expected to act on issues relating to over consumption and over packaging, with overwork a commonly cited area where action can drive recognition among consumers.
  • The issue which will differentiate sustainability actions by companies in the gaming and technology sector is mental health, with tax evasion and lack of access to the internet acting as hygiene factors.
  • Fashion brands need to tackle waste at a minimum and will get cut through with consumers by working to eradicate overwork and worker exploitation.

Commenting on the findings, Jonathan Hall, executive managing director of Kantar’s Sustainability Transformation Practice, said: “The Sustainability Sector Index illustrates that the business case for sustainability is clearer than ever before. Sustainability has become a top priority for businesses, but with so many areas to consider, brands in different sectors need to understand where they should be engaged and what actions they should prioritise. Having a solid understanding of their specific consumers’ priorities is the cornerstone of a sustainability strategy with impact and authenticity.”

“Among the standout findings of the study are the generational differences between 18 to 34-year-olds and those 55 and over. While the older cohort is more focused on the environment, the younger group is more immediately concerned about social issues, as characterised by the global protests we have witnessed over the last couple of years. Kantar’s insight shows that among this group there is a growing understanding of the relationship between environmental and social issues. While this doesn’t mean an abandonment of the individualism of previous generations, there is a greater focus on the broader community which marketers must mirror to retain this cohort’s trust and buy-in.”