Sustainable lifestyles ’too expensive’ for growing number of UK consumers

26th October 2023

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Chris Seekings

Cost is an increasingly large barrier to a more sustainable lifestyle, with a growing number of UK consumers believing it is too expensive, new research from Deloitte suggests.

After surveying more than 2,000 adults, the researchers found that cost was the main reason for not adopting more sustainable behaviour for 62% of those who had not done so over the last 12 months, up 10% from last year.

However, cost pressures could also be driving more people towards circularity principles, with 55% of all survey respondents saying they had repaired an item instead of replacing it, up from 53% in 2022, and 46% buying second hand or refurbished products, up from 40%.

Furthermore, most consumers have tried to lower their energy consumption by cutting things like heating, and washing clothes at a lower temperature, cited by 81% and 74%, respectively.

The cost-of-living crisis is having an impact, according to Emily Cromwell, ESG lead for the consumer industry at Deloitte, who added: "The increasing adoption of circular practices could be more about saving money than saving the planet.

"Whatever the reason, the growth of conscious buying habits is welcome. The question is, how much of this behavioural change will become permanent?”

The findings also show that most consumers have adopted activities such as recycling, reducing food waste, and limiting single use plastic over the last year, cited by 76%, 68% and 64% of all respondents, respectively.

In addition, 23% have switched to what they believe is a renewable energy supplier, while investment in solar panels, energy efficient appliances, and double glazing was also adopted by 25%, 36% and 31%, respectively.

Many consumers are also making more sustainable purchasing decisions, with 30% saying they had stopped purchasing certain brands or products because of ethical or sustainability-related concerns.

A similar proportion claimed that their trust in brands would be improved if they had a transparent, accountable, and socially and environmentally responsible supply chain.

Consumers also value net-zero goals, with 27% saying they would trust brands more if they target net zero by reducing carbon emissions, rather than relying on carbon offsetting

Cromwell continued: "It is key that businesses work together with policymakers, not only to make sustainable choices more affordable, but also to share better information around the impact of buying choices on the environment.

"This will be key to support a long-term change in consumer behaviour.”

Image credit: Shutterstock


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