Sustainability

Product manufacturing is the number one climate-change concern for consumers

A new survey from Morning Consult shows shoppers are less worried about the impact of their own buying decisions.
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Francis Scialabba

· less than 3 min read

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New consumer behavior survey data from decision intelligence company Morning Consult suggests that while a majority of adults in the US are concerned about climate change, consumers aren’t on the same page about the retail industry’s impact.

Morning Consult polled 2,200 US adults in late June, and found that only 60% of respondents said they were concerned about retail’s role in climate change.

“The first major takeaway for me was how few people had a real sense of what sustainable shopping even is, in a meaningful way,” Claire Tassin, retail and e-commerce analyst at Morning Consult, told Retail Brew.

  • Survey respondents were asked to describe what it means to shop sustainably. Thirty percent said they didn’t know or didn’t care.
  • “As someone who…pays so much attention to all these different brand initiatives about sustainable product manufacturing, or delivery or packaging and all these amazing innovations…to see how little of it is breaking through to consumers was disheartening,” Tassin said.

Self reflection: The survey indicates that shoppers are more concerned about the impact of retail manufacturing on the environment than on individual shopping behaviors, Tassin told us. Only about a fifth of respondents consider their own shopping choices to have a “major impact” on climate change.

And retail industry innovations like reusable packaging and electric vehicles don’t seem to register with shoppers, Tassin said.

  • Consumers are more concerned about product manufacturing than fast fashion and online shopping, the poll data showed.
  • 27% of respondents said they were “very concerned” about the impact of product manufacturing, while 22% were very concerned about fast fashion, and 21% about individual shopping decisions.
  • Creating a consistent definition of sustainable shopping is likely on the shoulders of brands themselves, Tasin said.

Repeat resale: Shopping secondhand might be popular, but it’s not necessarily because of the environmentally friendly impacts—while two thirds of respondents said they buy secondhand products, 23% admitted they’re not doing it to be sustainable.

“Saving money and finding rare items are more powerful drivers of shopping secondhand than sustainability,” Tassin said. “Most people will not shop resale just to be sustainable. But it is a nice, feel-good benefit of shopping secondhand.”—MA

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