The Rise of Green Consumerism
Green Consumerism has increased the demand for goods and services based on their pro-environment benefits.
Today, we are facing incredible environmental challenges. Rising sea levels, increasing global temperatures and deforestation to name just a few. All of these factors are raising awareness amongst us as consumers and reiterate the importance of making sustainable choices.
The origin of this necessity to behave in an environmentally friendly way goes back to the ‘60s and ’70s. Since then, there has been a steady rise in global initiatives dedicated to sustainability. For example, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (1988), Kyoto Protocol (1997), Paris Climate Agreement (2016) are all milestones on the path towards reducing the harmful human impact on our environment.
Who are the Green Consumers?
Over time, “sustainability” has evolved from a simple buzzword to a mindset that has driven the consumption landscape to change. The breadth of available environmental data clearly points to an urgent need for collective action to minimize and reduce the harm that we have already inflicted on our planet. Therefore, Green consumers are making consumption choices amongst an ever-growing selection of ‘green products’. We can define this ‘green consumer behavior’ through the following characteristics:
• Ethical purchase choice, product use and post-use;
• Purchase and use of products with lower environmental impacts; and
• Use of organic products, made with low impact processes and can then easily be disposed of through recycling, biodegradability, or compostability.
The importance of green consumerism, therefore, includes:
- Reduced waste in packaging;
- Increased energy efficiency;
- Decreased release of emissions and other pollutants during production and transportation processes;
- Consumption of healthier, less environmentally harmful, foods.
Millennials Driving the Change
Clearly, sustainable materials are more of a consideration for younger generations. In fact, they are more conscious about their purchases reflecting their values, as emerged in the Global Web Index data. Millennials (aged 22-35) are more likely than any other generation to say that they would pay extra for sustainable products.
Whose Responsibility is it to Initiate Change?
The consumers that Global Web Index surveyed in the UK and U.S. admitted they felt most responsible for the future of the planet. However, 52% believed responsibility lies with manufacturers or production bodies. This is an important point and, although the consumer can drive some of this change, there is also a need for multiple stakeholders to engage in sustainability across the supply chain and beyond, including regulatory bodies and Governments.
Sustainable Packaging: From a Nice-to-Have to a Must-Have
As the Green consumer has become an increasingly important customer segment for a number of retailers and Brands, aspects such as packaging need to be reassessed and re-engineered with the environmental impact considered. Characteristics such as function, materials, end use all need to be addressed in line with specific market regulations and trends.
Clearly, a huge variety of innovative packaging solutions emerged to reduce the environmental impact and meet customer demand for sustainable and eco-friendly options. We have identified 3 key trends in Sustainable Packaging this year:
1. Design for recycling/reuse
2. Replace plastic with bioplastic
3. Increased use of paper packaging
Sustainability Has a Cost
While Consumers are genuinely concerned about the future of the environment, they are also price-conscious. This presents a significant challenge for manufacturers and brands to overcome. As we explained previously, environmentally-friendly alternatives tend to have a higher cost attached to them.
The relationship between affordability and sustainability is a complex one. As illustrated in the below graphic, the gap between affordability and eco-consciousness grows larger with age. This is no doubt due to younger generations being more engaged in green consumerism for their own future in comparison with the mindset of their elder relatives. However, there are also issues with the ‘e-comm age’. For example, the younger generations have grown up in the age of e-commerce and have an expectation that all goods can be delivered to your doorstep at the click of a button. This should sit awkwardly in the context of sustainability given the carbon footprint of all these packages being sent to their door. However, ultimately, green consumerism will lead to more companies and their stakeholders engaged across all aspects of their product offer from delivery, manufacturing through to packaging, which will further address the broader sustainable spectrum.
Going Green, Turning Challenges into Opportunities.
Manufacturers and Brands have identified this emerging consumer and are already devoting resource to develop greener, more sustainable products, reducing waste in packaging and providing better options around end use as well.
Whilst consumers are driving this shift in the demand for ‘Greener’ products, Brands are also educating them on the possible options that can be made around sustainable choices. This can be seen for example in Nike’s flyknit technology that reduces waste on the factory floor or Adidas who have pledged to use 100% recycled polyester in their products by 2024 to end Ocean plastic.
Brands not engaged in discussions around sustainability will find that there is additional strain put on their customer loyalty. In fact, Brands are now moving towards ‘Purpose’ and ‘Activism’ as part of what they stand for. Certainly, this trend is likely to continue as consumers look to Brands to stand for their own beliefs; including sustainability.
At ET2C, we are serious about sustainability and its benefit on the environment as well as the ultimate commercial benefits for purpose-driven companies. For this reason, sustainability will be a central part of our strategic initiatives in 2021. In particular, we will look for sustainable options across factories, products, and packaging for our clients. We have already attained FSC certification and are continuously assessing other opportunities to continue our sustainability journey.
To understand more about sustainability and what it can mean across your factories, products and people, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.