Despite inflation and other barriers, recent study reveals three quarters of global consumers view sustainability as equally or more important to them than it was last year. Nearly 90% have become ‘greener’ in their purchasing behavior.
While demand for sustainable goods and services continues to grow, the willingness to pay a premium for them has declined – these indicators suggest that consumers are increasingly expecting sustainability to become part of the norm, not a differentiator.
Boston, MA, October 24, 2022 – In its second year, a major study of more than 11,700 people across 19 countries shows that the demand for sustainable goods and services is becoming increasingly important in consumers’ purchasing decisions. The Global Sustainability Study 2022*, conducted by Simon-Kucher & Partners, a global consultancy, reveals that 66 percent of consumers rank sustainability as a top five value driver in at least one category – this number is up 16 percentage points over last year. While the importance of sustainable offers varies across industries, generations, and countries, consumers and brands around the world have also to contend with a unique set of barriers, such as inflationary pressures, over the past year.
Attitudes towards sustainability continue to shift
While globally, 75 percent of respondents report that they have changed their purchasing habits over the past year to be more sustainable in at least a modest way, it is perhaps even more notable that a significant shift was observed in respondents who previously identified their attitudes towards sustainability as negative or neutral. In fact, even for the 40-45 percent who previously said they were negative or neutral last year, have made environmental sustainability a higher priority when it comes to purchasing decisions.
Globally, 89 percent of those surveyed indicated that their purchasing behavior and choices shifted towards buying more environmentally sustainable products over the past 5 years. No country experienced a negative shift in this regard and only one, Germany, stayed flat year over year. The US and Norway, saw the largest positive shift of 16 percentage points.
Willingness to pay more for sustainability differs across industries, but is trending down overall
While the majority are not willing to pay more, 32 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products/services. Respondents indicated that they were most willing to pay a premium for sustainable goods and services when it comes to consumer goods (37 percent) and financial services (36 percent) – they were least likely to pay a premium when it comes to energy/utilities (29 percent).
"Globally, prioritization and commitment to sustainability have increased for consumers since last year, yet willingness to pay a premium for sustainable good and services dropped two percentage points year-over-year – in fact, industries in which sustainability has been a highly relevant topic for a longer period of time are commanding the lowest premiums,” said Shikha Jain, author of the study and Partner at Simon-Kucher. “This indicates that sustainability is becoming table-stakes and is something consumers are increasingly expecting to be a given rather than a justification for higher costs. As such, companies must adjust their business models to stay relevant to consumers.”
Both internal and external motivators are driving sustainable purchasing behavior, but consumers – and businesses – have several barriers to break through
While a sense of responsibility (64 percent) was the leading motivator for purchasing sustainable goods and services, followed by a fear of environmental damage (48 percent) and the benefit of younger generations (44 percent), respondents also indicated that there were several barriers to sustainable purchasing. The three primary barriers to purchasing were the lack of affordability (33 percent), insufficient access to sustainable goods (25 percent), and lack of clarity on when a product/service is sustainable (21 percent).
Recent inflationary pressures around the world have also had a dampening effect on the purchase of sustainable goods and services – 33 percent of global respondents said they were less likely to buy sustainable goods and services due to inflation of their prices and 33 percent also said they were more selective in which categories (e.g. consumer goods, transportation, etc.) they would pay for sustainable alternatives in due to inflation.
“With attitudes and behaviors towards sustainable consumerism trending upwards year over year, it’s clear that sustainability is not a fad and is here to stay,” said Andreas von der Gathen, co-CEO of Simon-Kucher. “Consumers will continue to expect more from companies and those that don’t adapt and innovate, even in spite of hurdles such as inflationary pressures, will suffer in regards to their long-term profitability and viability.”
Complete study findings are available upon request, including industry and country splits.
*About the Study:
The Global Sustainability Study 2022 survey was conducted between July and August, 2022 by Simon-Kucher & Partners, fielding through panel data provided by Dynata, an independent market research agency. The study surveyed 11,711 consumers across 19 countries: USA (N=1,003), Germany (N=1,001), Denmark (N=760), Sweden (N=755), Brazil (N=532), China (N=505), Singapore (N=526), Spain (N=528), Switzerland (N=512), UK (N=507), Australia (N=502), Austria (N=515), France (N=512), the Netherlands (N=501), Norway (N=752), Italy (N=506), UAE (N=510), Finland (N=758), India (N=526). The study included representative quotas set for age, gender, living area, education level, employment status & income level. The study, which was designed to measure consumer attitudes towards sustainability, importance of sustainability and willingness-to-pay for sustainability, also focused on 19 different product/service categories of the following sectors: Consumer Goods & Retail; Automotive; Travel & Tourism; Energy/Utilities; Financial Services; and Construction/Home.
Simon-Kucher & Partners:
Simon-Kucher is a global consultancy firm with more than 2,000 employees in 27 countries. We’re focused on delivering measurable revenue and profit growth for our clients. We do this by optimizing their pricing, sales, and marketing strategies better and more sustainably than anyone else. With over 35 years of experience in a vast range of monetization topics, our experts work across all industries and for businesses both large and small. Our projects increase our clients’ profitability by an average of 100 to 500 basis points, and we are regarded as the world’s leading pricing advisor.