Consumers worldwide are fully on board with supporting brands and businesses that incorporate sustainable practices into their product manufacturing, distribution and business operations—new research from supply chain transformations and omnichannel commerce fulfillment firm Blue Yonder affirms that about half (48 percent) of those surveyed have an increased interest in sustainability over the past year, and most are eager to shop green where possible, even if it means paying more for certain products.
But when it comes to brands’ claims of eco-accordance, they’re not really buying it
In general, consumers who were surveyed expressed ambivalence toward corporate environmental messaging—more than half (56 percent) were indifferent or were not sure whether they could trust brands’ claims of sustainability related to their manufacturing, supply chain, or recycling/waste practices, the firm’s 2023 Consumer Sustainability Survey finds. Rather than taking companies at their word, consumers are more interested in hearing from their peers—a third (32 percent) said that consumer reviews carry the most weight in their green purchasing decisions.
But reviews do not carry as much weight across all age groups. Traditionalist shoppers (age 60+) tend to base the sustainability of a product mostly on the use of recycled materials. Even with more official designations like ESG ratings, consumers are not sold—just 14 percent said ESG scores were the most important determinant, and 50 percent were unfamiliar with ESG scores altogether.
“We’re pleased to see that consumers remain as focused as ever on adopting eco-conscious behaviors, with nearly three-quarters (74 percent) reporting shopping at retailers with sustainable products in the last six months,” said Ed Wong, senior vice president, global retail sector leader at Blue Yonder, in a news release. “It is clear that successful, environmentally friendly shopping must be driven by a symbiosis between brands and consumers. The results tell us loud and clear that brands must walk the walk, and consumers rely heavily on each other to vet corporate ESG claims.”
Consumers will readily make personal sacrifices for sustainability—but only to a point
The findings indicate that consumers are willing to make personal sacrifices for more eco-friendly shopping, including paying more and delaying priority shipping. An impressive 69 percent said they were willing to pay more for sustainable products, but this flexibility is not without limitation—just 4 percent expressed willingness to pay 20 percent more, across all age groups. A willingness to pay 5 percent more was the top selection.
Inflation remains top-of-mind for many consumers, with 58 across all age groups reporting that price was the most important factor in determining whether to make a sustainable purchase. Consumers were most amenable to paying a premium for eco-friendly products that would heavily impact their day-to-day lives, with apparel (30 percent), cleaning products (27 percent), and beauty products (19 percent) being the three most likely products.
While the past few years have sparked a massive influx in e-commerce, consumers are more than happy to opt for deprioritized, eco-conscious shipping speeds, and 78 percent would wait up to a week for a delayed delivery in favor of an environmentally friendly shipment. A whopping 86 percent were willing to delay their online shipping, provided they were given an incentive to do so. Of this group, 30 percent indicated they would wait for one week or more, with the 18-29 demographic leading the way.
“The past year has also demonstrated that consumers remain sensitive to prolonged inflation, with marked shifts in their willingness to spend and a clear trend in favor of shopping secondhand,” said Wong. “As consumers navigate and weigh their options for more environmentally-conscious shopping, we can expect to see these patterns continue across retail channels”
Other key findings:
When presented with a list of consumer goods that could be purchased secondhand, household furniture and appliances, apparel, and consumer electronics (in that order) were the top three for all age groups except 18-29, which ranked apparel first. Overall, the majority of respondents (54 percent) said they were amenable to purchasing resale household furniture and appliances with consumer electronics coming in second with 45 percent indicating willingness to purchase secondhand.
Thrifting secondhand clothes remains popular, with nearly one-third (31 percent; a marked increase from the 23 percent reported last year. Looking by age, those 18-29 were more likely to participate in this practice, and those 60 and older were least likely. Recycling or composting was close behind, with 28 percent of all respondents citing that behavior as their top practice; however, it was down from 37 percent in 2022. Reusable bags remain popular among shoppers, with 24 percent ranking that habit as their most frequent environmentally-friendly practice, the same as in 2022.
The top three overall categories consumers have switched loyalty or will consider switching for are household products (65 percent), food products (57 percent), and beauty & wellness (49 percent). By demographics, household products ranked first for all age demographics except 60+ which ranked it second. Beauty was second for ages 18-29 while 30-44 and 45-60 ranked it as third. Only those ages 60+ ranked apparel & footwear in their top three.
Blue Yonder collected responses between Feb. 17-19, 2023, from more than 1,000 U.S.-based consumers, 18 years and older, via a third-party provider for this Consumer Sustainability Survey. This is the second year of Blue Yonder’s survey.