We mentioned it in the report EATrends, and surveys of all types, ranging from the macro-survey of the 2021 UN Development Programme, to others carried out by market research agencies, all confirm it: citizens are worried about climate change. So now really is the time for us to consider sustainability as a determining factor in shopping.

A study carried out by the market intelligence agency Mintel drew a number of conclusions that can help to give shape to product launches and messages where sustainability is an important factor.

Millennials are not the only consumers to be worried about sustainability

A certain feeling of optimism is in the air, based on the belief that we are still in time to reverse the effects of climate change and that our behaviour can help to bring this about. This can work in favour for claims of sustainability in a product, and even more so when this trend is not only visible amongst millennials (who have been traditionally associated with a stronger commitment to the environment) but also in the over 55 age group. An important detail to bear in mind for advertising messages.

An example of this is the data about factors in consuming coffee, where sustainability is an increasingly popular selling point. When asked what makes them choose one product over another one, the answers, in order of importance, were:

  • Made with high-quality ingredients
  • A brand that the consumer has already consumed
  • With minimum or recyclable packaging
  • Produced in an environmentally friendly manner (e.g. avoiding deforestation)
  • Packaging keeps the coffee fresh

On the other hand, when we distinguish between environmentally aware consumers and those who are not, the first group is more concerned about the community and local issues. It is also linked to a healthy and active lifestyle, which can give clues about the type of message to be transmitted.

Sustainable behaviours

Anything that can facilitate sustainable behaviour is welcomed by consumers, especially when they are related to simple processes and cost reductions.

Recycling takes the lead in this regard, closely followed by returning containers. In the second case, the relationship with the distribution company is a key factor. Accepting containers is the most obvious (and popular) way for companies to associated with consumers and facilitate an action that makes them feel good.

Reducing consumption is also making inroads. Attitudes towards more responsible consumption and reuse (an example being the textile industry, as shown in the book by Marta de Riezu “Moda justa” about clothing consumption, and its influence on campaigns such as “Lo hecho, hecho está” by Walapop  and the growth in applications such as Vinted) can also be seen in food consumption.

Greater awareness of waste reduction has led the increased use of menus and budgets for food and the decision to follow them. Here again we see a behaviour mainly associated with people over 65 years of age that is increasingly popular with younger age groups, including generation Z.

Responsibility for sustainability

Consumers tend to make companies responsible for sustainability (more so than governments or themselves), including increased recycling, guarantees of decent working conditions for employees and reduced emissions.

Another significant detail is that the packaged meat and fish and drinks industries are regarded as the least environmentally friendly. This is not very good news, but it could also be a great opportunity to improve and strengthen messages.

Opportunities to convince consumers

When we talk about environmental concerns, the most commonly mentioned ones are climate change/global warming, air quality and pollution from plastics.

Environmental innovations that are perceived as having a medium or major impact can be a point in favour of companies that want to develop a strategy to win over consumers. It is therefore important to see the type of measures that are regarded as most effective:

  • Planting new forests
  • Protecting existing forests
  • Investing in renewable energies
  • Projects to help countries develop clean fuels
  • Preferential loans to invest in energy efficiency
  • Carbon tax for companies, services and products
  • Food developed from by-products
  • Genetically modified crops to prevent pest infestation and reverse climate change
  • Foodstuffs cultivated in laboratories

Information is vital for convincing other people

Finally, although technology will be a key factor in making sustainability a reality (and most of the population agrees with this notion), at the same time consumer trust in this process needs to be strengthened.

Therefore, information and how it is shown will be vital factors. Companies need to use a new vocabulary of sustainability and use data in an understandable manner.

Labelling systems are a good example of this. Consumers are demanding objective information and if a company does this, it may become an added value, since it will help consumers to make better decisions when shopping. Initiatives such as Enviroscore are showing a lot of potential in this regard.