During this year’s Plastic Free July campaign audience insight company GWI published new research showing that Brits are making a more conscious effort to live sustainably – but it’s not Gen Z leading the way.
Beginning with a focus on plastic, GWI’s data – obtained through its Zeitgeist research in March (surveying over 2,000 UK consumers aged 16-64) and its Core dataset of 10,500 participants – shows that 61% are actively reducing their consumption of plastic and 85% are recycling it.
But the results also unearthed a generational divide; while 86% of baby boomers diligently recycle any plastic packaging they use, Gen Z is trailing behind with only 48% claiming to do the same. Older generations are more likely to donate unwanted household items and purchase energy-efficient appliances, while among younger consumers there is growing interest in sustainable clothing and pre-owned fashion.
Other key insights cover expectations around the environmental claims of brands; almost a quarter (22%) of consumers ‘do not trust brands to follow through with their environmental claims or pledges at all’. Greenwashing discourages 40% of shoppers from buying from a brand, while a similar number (39%) would be deterred by a ‘poor environmental track record’. Over a third want to see brands using sustainably sourced materials (39%); 37% say reducing company CO2 emissions and energy use is important to them; and for 32% it’s about demonstrating transparency around how a product is made.
Support for high streets also featured in the research, with a third of respondents (33%) supporting small businesses when they shop. Organic got a mention (16% are now buying organic food as a ‘greener’ option) as did the cost of living crisis – with 44% saying they’re attempting to spend less compared to two years ago, and 42% currently seeking out more energy efficient appliances.
In many cases, older generations are ahead for certain eco-activities and leading by example
When compared with other countries, UK consumers have a ‘gloomier’ outlook on the future of the environment; 42% say the situation will worsen in the next six months, versus 23% globally.
Katie Gilsenan, trends manager at GWI, comments: “We can see sustainability is a core priority for all consumers, but while Gen Z are often seen in the media as ‘sustainability warriors’ or the ‘green generation’, in reality their sustainability behaviours often paint a different picture. In many cases, older generations are ahead for certain eco-activities and leading by example.
“However, while many people generally want to live a more sustainable lifestyle, it’s not always an option or a priority. The big elephant in the room is cost. The price of sustainable products has long been a massive barrier to consumers adopting more eco-friendly lifestyles, which is even more of a consideration now as we grapple with a cost of living crisis. Consumers will generally tend to opt for ways to save money, but that doesn’t have to always be at the expense of the planet. Brands should lean into ways that consumers can stay mindful of the environment, on a budget.
“Brands also play a key role in sustainability. Our data shows how crucial it is for brands to commit to protecting the environment through eco-friendly practices when building consumer trust. Equally, it shows how false sustainability claims … can erode this trust and ultimately discourage consumers from buying from a brand in the future.”
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