Sustainable consumption, consumers torn between willingness to act and poor perception

Sustainable consumption will be highlighted during the European Sustainable Development Week. Indeed, the event takes place from September 18 to October 8 in all European countries. The mission of this large-scale event is to promote sustainable development through initiatives put in place. It also takes place in schools in Nouvelle-Aquitaine.

This week will raise awareness of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda. In particular, it presents 17 objectives in favour of sustainable development. Among these objectives, it values responsible consumption. A mode of consumption that is increasingly integrated into consumer habits.

EY has made the observation in its index concerning the evolution of consumption patterns. The survey of 14,000 consumers in more than 20 countries, conducted from April to May 2021, highlights consumer trends. The analyses reveal responses to the health crisis or much more fundamental responses. The shift towards more sustainable consumption is confirmed.

Sustainable consumption motivation obstacles behaviour
Consumers want to consume better with convictions

The health crisis has confirmed the shift towards more sustainable consumption

So to speak, the health crisis has left its mark everywhere. In terms of consumption, it will also have marked current trends. Moreover, while it has accelerated certain trends, it has also confirmed some of them. Indeed, the crisis will have had an impact on the way consumers have bought and consumed. Faced with this, it is important for companies to study the market. In this way, they will be able to understand the new needs of consumers but also their obstacles. In this sense, the study by EY, a financial audit firm, sheds light on many points regarding consumers’ motivations for consumption. In particular, it indicates the behaviours, feelings and intentions of consumers.

Thus, the study makes it possible to reveal more precisely some major axes. In particular, it reveals the increasing consideration of sustainable development criteria in the purchasing process of consumers. Indeed, 61% of French consumers now pay attention to these criteria in their consumption mode. It should be noted that these figures are higher than the figures for other developed countries. Consumers’ motivations towards sustainable consumption are turning towards environmental awareness. Indeed, 80% cite the environment as the main reason for consuming more sustainably. This awareness on the part of consumers aims to fight climate change or to preserve the ecosystem and biodiversity.

At the same time, the analyses also reveal that the younger generations are the most receptive to a radical change in consumption or life. This information is an opportunity for brands if they can identify the subtleties of the younger generation. Indeed, if this public is the most inclined to be able to change its way of consuming, it is also a demanding public that attaches importance to its values. Of those surveyed in the younger generation, 41% of them have stopped buying or have bought less from brands that do not do enough for the environment.

However, they have also been willing to pay more for products or services marked “eco-responsible”. In this sense, for companies it is necessary to conquer this target with a coherent discourse and actions. No question of “greenwashing”, if the younger generation wants to consume better, it does so with conviction.

The problem of a mode of consumption considered too vague or too expensive

In addition, sustainable consumption is subject to fundamental issues. It is sometimes seen as a fad among companies in order to conquer consumers. Overall, 23% buy less or stop buying from a brand that doesn’t do enough. There is a real search for meaning for the latter. This quest is even more noticeable following the COVID-19 crisis, which is challenging today’s society. In addition, by dint of wanting to communicate too much on the responsible dimension some lose consumers without being able to go to the essentials. Consumers are faced with an overabundance of information and no longer know what to think and how to decide. Indeed, the figures speak for themselves, 79% of consumers say they lack the right information to decide to act in favor of sustainable development.

If the subject is democratized, and this is a good thing, it is still complex to address. For companies, the task is not simple because consumers are on the one hand lost in a vague and constant flow of information. On the other hand, they face obstacles in terms of perception and budget. For 73% of respondents, the high price discourages them from buying sustainable products. Consumers are demanding and don’t want to pay more to buy a brand’s sustainable products if it’s not convincing enough. However, the demand for more sustainable and respectful consumption is there, since 41% of consumers worldwide want to avoid the consumption of meat products. At the same time, 39% want to start producing their own food.

Therefore, while sustainable consumption has come a long way in the minds of consumers, it has also become more refined. However, for companies, it is necessary to take into account the sharp demands of consumers on this subject to convince them. Why should consuming better necessarily be more expensive? That is the question. In addition, the circular economy allows consumers to consume better while saving money. Indeed, applications like Geev for example allow thanks to donations to give a second life to all kinds of products. In this sense, for companies, it is necessary to bet on operational strategies consistent with their discourse while integrating consumer brakes. Sincerity will be a strong argument to convince.


“#Conso EY Future Consumer Index: results of the new edition of the index dedicated to changing consumption patterns” EY, press release of 16 September 2021

“FutureConsumer Index: making sustainability accessible to the consumer”EY, article of 14 September 2021

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