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Climate Change Brand Purpose Environment

High cost of living is making sustainability a luxury of the wealthy, Kantar study finds


By Audrey Kemp, LA Reporter

September 13, 2022 | 3 min read

Most consumers would like to live more sustainable lives, but climbing costs prevent them from doing so, according to a study released by Kantar today. Here’s what brands can do to help all consumers lessen their impact on the planet, as well as reduce their own.

sustainable shopping supplies: reusable straw, wooden utensils, etc.

Most people are ready to live eco-friendly lifestyles, but soaring prices stand in the way, the study shows / Credit: Adobe Stock

More than three-quarters of consumers (77%) believe that sustainable products are more expensive, thus limiting sustainable practices to wealthier populations. This is creating a massive missed opportunity for brands, according to Kantar’s Sustainable Sector Index 2022, which debuted today.

The study was mapped against the United Nations’ sustainable development goals and based on interviews with 33,000 consumers in 32 different countries. The findings reveal consumers’ sustainability attitudes and behaviors, as well as how brands can make sustainability more accessible. “Too often, sustainability products come at a premium and this gets in the way of mainstream adoption,” said Karine Trinquetel, global head of Kantar’s sustainability transformation practice offer. “People are frustrated about that; we found that a large majority want to buy environmentally-friendly products, but brands have to make sure they are affordable.”

The majority of consumers (65%) would like to be more mindful about the planet, but the increased cost of living prevents them from doing so. Currently, one in three consumers in tenuous financial situations actively seek out environmentally-conscious brands, compared to 53% of those who are financially comfortable.

Beyond affordability, a lack of knowledge about sustainable alternatives remains the second major barrier for sustainable living, as 57% of consumers find it too difficult to tell which products are good or bad for the environment.

The study also found that consumers identify different social and environmental issues in different sectors, and they expect companies to tackle these issues. Waste elimination, for example, is at the top of the people’s agenda for brands worldwide. Consumers expect companies in 24 different sectors – including food and beverage, travel and fashion – to address overpackaging, non-recyclable packaging and landfill, overconsumption and waste.​

Second in consumers’ minds is decarbonization, as they associated companies in 15 different sectors with carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. “Although portfolios can be shaped to cater to different price tiers, brands adopting mass-market strategies will enjoy higher cost-effectiveness, especially in production, and will more easily accelerate their sustainable transformation,” Trinquetel said.

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