Consumers are starting to punish companies with unsustainable practices


Greenpeace Canada Oceans campaigner Sarah King with a collection of Coca-Cola bottles and caps found on Freedom Island, Philippines. Photo credit: Daniel Müller / Greenpeace.

By Anders Lorenzen

In line with the increased worry and awareness surrounding the need to cut emissions and protect the environment, consumers are now starting to punish unsustainable businesses where it hurts them, with their wallets. A new global survey by data analytics firm Kantar, in which they polled consumers in 24 countries, indicates that consumers are cutting spending on meat due to climate concerns and bottled drinks due to single-use plastic concerns and that the trend is set to continue as concerns about climate change continue to mount.

About a third of the 65,000+ people surveyed in Europe, Latin America and Asia say they are alarmed about the environment, with half of those – or 16% of the global total – taking active steps to reduce their personal footprint on the planet. The biggest concerns are seen in richer economies with consumers in Asia and South America, with the exception of Chile, apparently less concerned than consumers in Western Europe.

In the resulting report, the company said “As markets get wealthier, the focus on issues of environmentalism and plastics increases. In the future, we could expect to see the share of ‘eco active’ shoppers rising in countries that experience a growing gross domestic product.”

Kantar said the impacts are already being felt through “small reductions in spending on meat, bottled drinks and categories such as beauty wipes.”

Chile, the host country for this year’s UN climate conference, is the exception in South America and apparently has the ‘most environmentally engaged consumers in the world’, with 37% of those surveyed actively taking trying to make positive changes in their lifestyle. Austria and Germany apparently have the next most concerned shoppers, with Britain not far behind, according to Kantar sales of fresh meat in Britain could drop by up to 4% in the next two years if the current environmentalism trend keeps spreading.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said last month that global meat consumption must fall to curb global warming and that plant-based foods could contribute to reducing emissions of carbon dioxide.

There has been an explosion of companies offering alternatives to meat, such as California-based Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, with food giants like Nestle also launching plant-based burgers. The discount supermarket chain Aldi just became the latest big brand to launch a series of vegan ranges.

Kantar said “Our study shows there is high demand for eco-friendly products that are competitively priced and readily available,” and also said evidence suggests. consumers want companies to actively do more to combat the plastic epidemic.

It highlighted that big brands including giants like Nestle, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Walmart and Carrefour – have signed a pledge to make their packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. However, these companies continue to be a target for campaign groups as their efforts so far have been perceived as weak.

The battle to fight the climate crisis and plastic epidemic is quickly becoming a battle for brands to please consumers, but many consumers who are taking these actions are quickly becoming aware that in order to tackle these crises it is not only about consuming the right products but also about consuming less.


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