Westerners choose sustainability over growth

13th December 2019

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Carole Slimm

Three in four westerners believe that slower economic growth is a price worth paying for environmental protection, a survey of 15,000 consumers has uncovered. It was also found that 64% of Europeans and 53% of Americans think that companies will face a consumer backlash if they fail to take the necessary steps to go green.

However, businesses are perceived as being slow to respond to the environmental crisis, with a third of respondents unable to name a company that has changed the way it reuses and repairs products.

Seven in 10 said supermarkets should not provide single-use plastic packaging or plastic bags, while half are happy to repair a broken appliance if the costs are up to 30% of a replacement.

The findings come as activist groups such as Extinction Rebellion demand further corporate action on the environment, and suggest that customers are willing to bear some of the costs.

“Consumers are both pushing for change and asking for help to coordinate these efforts,“ said Jessica Exton, behavioural scientist at financial services firm ING, which carried out the survey. Consumers from 15 European nations, Australia and the US took part in the study, which found that attitudes towards the circular economy differ across countries.

For example, a whopping 92% of Italians said they always separate their waste at home, compared to just 39% of Turkish people.

Moreover, around eight in 10 respondents from Luxembourg and Turkey said people in their country are excessively focused on consumption, compared to just 50% of Italians.

The researchers said that discrepancies in local circular activities might be partially explained by established local norms – both cultural and social – and access to recycling and repair facilities.

And despite 34% of respondents naming plastic waste as the greatest environmental challenge facing the planet, 96% said they throw plastic away daily. A worrying 86% throw away up to five items each day.

“Consumers are conscious of the urgency of the problem at hand, but awareness and information don't automatically translate into changed habits,“ Exton continued.

“While consumers need structural support to enable fixing and re-using, sustainable decisions must also have a clear benefit.“

Additional findings can be found here: bit.ly/2XZhmRm


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