Gen Z has historically been the most vocal about the health of the planet. Fully three-quarters of Gen Z consumers say that sustainability is more important to them than a brand name when making purchase decisions—and as sustainability and climate change dominate the headlines globally, new consumer research from experience management firm First Insight and the Baker Retailing Center at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania shows the power that Gen Z consumers have over older generations to influence purchasing decisions around sustainability.
As a result of Gen Z’s influence over their Gen X parents on this issue, Gen X consumers’ preference to shop sustainable brands increased by 24 percent and their willingness to pay more for sustainable products increased by 42 percent since 2019.
The new joint survey found that Gen Z leads the way in sustainability
In fact, consumers across all generations—from Baby Boomers to Gen Z—are now willing to spend more for sustainable products. Just two years ago, only 58 percent of consumers across all generations were willing to spend more for sustainable options. Today, nearly 90 percent of Gen X consumers said that they would be willing to spend 10 percent extra or more for sustainable products, compared to just over 34 percent two years ago.
“Our research points to a seismic shift in sentiment around sustainability purchasing decisions, with significant increases in just two years,” said Greg Petro, CEO of First Insight, in a news release. “When the previous study was fielded in 2019, older generations were not as sustainability-conscious as they are today. The global pandemic caused many to rethink their consumption and its impact on the health of the planet, yet Gen Z have been consistent in remaining true to their sustainability values while also educating and influencing the generations that came before them.”
Additional key findings:
Today, the majority of respondents across every generation expect retailers and brands to be more sustainable. The survey found, however, that there is some disconnect across the generations about what sustainability actually means. Nearly half of the Boomers (44 percent), Gen X (48 percent), and Millennials (46 percent) agree that sustainability means “products made from recycled, sustainable and natural harvested fibers and materials.”
Meanwhile, nearly half of the Gen Z (48 percent) respondents believe that sustainability means sustainable manufacturing. One thing most could agree on is that packaging should be sustainable. Across generations, 73 percent combined feel that sustainable packaging is very or somewhat important today, compared to only 58 percent in 2019.
The survey also found that values-based purchase decisions—whether they are personal, social, or environmental—are more likely to be made by Gen X (76 percent), Millennials (77 percent), and Gen Z (75 percent), and within those groups, men (77 percent) are more likely than women (67 percent) to make values-driven purchases.
First Insight’s findings are based on the results of a U.S. consumer study of a targeted sample of more than 1,000 respondents, balanced by gender, geography, and generation, and was fielded between July 1, 2021, and July 10, 2021. The study was completed through proprietary sample sources among panels who participate in online surveys.