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Accenture: Pandemic intensifies interest in ‘conscious consumption’

Consumers are becoming more conscious of the wider impact of their purchases. 

New research by Accenture suggests that the pandemic has intensified interest in “conscious consumption,” or the practice of seriously considering the environmental and societal impacts of purchase decisions. The findings challenge consumer goods and retail industries to fundamentally rethink how they cater to the pandemic-adapted consumer, the report said.

Sixty-nine percent of consumers believe consumer brands should do more to make it easier to consume more consciously, the survey found.  And 65% believe that the government should introduce legislation to promote “conscious consumption”, such as charging for plastic bags.

In other findings, to help easily understand how sustainable a product is, seven in 10 consumers would support a mandatory but simple labelling standard for products such as a traffic light indicator.

The research also revealed that half of consumers do not have a good understanding of which brands are sustainable/ethical, and which are not.  A third admitted   that they do not have a good understanding on what items they can and can’t recycle.

The latest research supports Accenture’s previous findings that the shift in “conscious consumption” is likely to remain or accelerate further. For instance:

•    In April 2020, 64% of consumers said they’re focusing more on limiting food waste and will likely continue to do so going forward. In December 2020, this number jumps to 72%;

•    In April 2020, 50% of consumers said they’re shopping more health-consciously and will likely to continue to do so. This increases to 68% of consumers when surveyed in December 2020;

•    45% of consumers said they’re making more sustainable choices when shopping and will likely continue to do so. In December 2020, this figure rose to 66% of consumers.

“The pandemic is making consumers think more about the impact their purchasing decisions are having on the environment and society at large,” said Oliver Wright, senior managing director and global lead of Accenture’s consumer goods   industry group. “Consumers’ focus on areas like the provenance of ingredients and raw materials, working practices, the environmental impact of finished products and packaging, calls for companies to ensure the agility and capability to be relevant to consumers and customers — with a portfolio of products and services that match shifting purchasing patterns – and to better collaborate with industry peers, just as they proved they could during the pandemic.”

"People’s values are increasingly becoming infused in their shopping habits as consumers think more about balancing what they buy, and how they spend their time, with global issues of sustainability,” said Jill Standish, senior managing director and head of Accenture’s global retail industry group. “This calls for retailers to be authentic and to pay attention to what each community they serve really cares about.”

“It is no longer enough for brands to just talk about responsibility, they need to adopt environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices, harnessing technology to drive outcomes across their entire operations, from building more sustainable supply chains to equipping the workforce for a new environment,” Standish said.

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