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Study: Several countries outrank U.S. consumers with sustainability concern

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In the U.S., millennials score highest compared to other generations, yet also declined compared to last year.

Sustainability has slightly decreased as a concern among American consumers compared to a year ago.

A new survey from e-commerce company ESW found that U.S. consumers scored 49 this year when it came to being sustainability-minded, compared to 51 in 2023.  The sustainability sentiment score represents the percentage of respondents that “agree” or “strongly agree” with 14 of the sustainability sentiments, including, “I am trying to be more sustainable in my day-to-day life,” “I have stopped buying from certain brands and retailers because of their poor environmental record,” and “I try to buy/shop more sustainably, but will not spend more for more eco-friendly products.”

The U.S. score ranked behind the global mean of 55, with India (75), the United Arab Emirates (74), China (70) and Mexico (67) topping the list.

“We were surprised to discover that the degree to which consumers are concerned about sustainability, as well as what they value from the brands they patronize, depends largely upon where they live,” said Martim Avillez Oliveira, chief revenue officer, ESW. “The data suggests that while U.S. consumers have been encouraged to make environmentally responsible choices for years, perhaps the intensity of that messaging, along with the increasing strain that inflation places on households, may have consumers at a tipping point.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, younger people across the globe were more concerned with sustainability than older generations. Global average sustainability scores by generation were led by Gen Z (61), followed by millennials (60), Gen X (53) and Baby Boomers (49). In the U.S., millennials score highest compared to other generations, yet also declined compared to last year. Millennials scored 59 on the sustainability index, (compared to 62 last year) but still rank higher this year than Gen Z (57), Gen X (50) and Baby Boomers (35).

ESW found that despite the ambiguity of the term “sustainability”, there are several concrete steps brands can take to attract and retain environmentally attuned shoppers. The report noted that 31% of consumers consider sustainable packaging options when shopping online, while 30% consider sustainable shipping options, and 29% value less packaging overall.

Shoppers that value brand names are also more likely to be sustainably-minded shoppers with a sustainability score of 62 compared to 47 for non-brand name shoppers. Nearly a third (32%) of brand name shoppers are likely to be environmentally attuned shoppers. Luxury shoppers are 1.5x more likely to be sustainably-attuned.

Globally, 63% of shoppers said they value brand authenticity and want brands to be truthful and transparent about company environmental credentials. More than half of the consumers surveyed (55%) in all countries said they are more aware of greenwashing than they were a year ago. More than a quarter (27%) said they considered a brand’s environmental transparency record when making a purchase.

ESW surveyed 18,679 adults in 18 countries between Oct. 31 and Nov. 4, 2023.

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