According to a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers conducted by supply chain technology company Blue Yonder, nearly half of all respondents reported increased interest in eco-conscious habits over the past year; however, they remain wary of corporate sustainability claims.
This is the second year of Blue Yonder’s survey exploring their sustainable shopping opinions and behaviors. By and large, consumers remain invested in eco-conscious practices, with 48 percent of respondents sharing an increased interest in sustainability over the past year and 44 percent said it remained the same. Consumers are eager to shop green where possible, even if it means paying more for certain products.
“We’re pleased to see that consumers remain as focused as ever on adopting eco-conscious behaviors, with nearly three-quarters (74 percent) reporting shopping at retailers with sustainable products in the last six months,” said Ed Wong, senior vice president, global retail sector leader, Blue Yonder. “It is clear that successful, environmentally friendly shopping must be driven by a symbiosis between brands and consumers. We’re deeply encouraged by how many respondents are willing to consider a sustainable product and company across resale and new product sales.”
Consumers Will Make Personal Sacrifices For Sustainability
Survey results indicate that consumers are willing to make personal sacrifices for more eco-friendly shopping, including paying more and delaying priority shipping. Sixty-ninwe percent said they were willing to pay more for sustainable products, but this flexibility is not without limitation; just 4 percent expressed willingness to pay 20 percent more – across age groups1. A willingness to pay 5 percent more was the top selection – and across all age groups. Inflation remains top-of-mind for many consumers, with 58 percent reporting that price was the most important factor in determining whether to make a sustainable purchase. Consumers were most amenable to paying a premium for eco-friendly products that would heavily impact their day-to-day lives, with apparel (30 percent), cleaning products (27 percent), and beauty products (19 percent) being the three most likely products.
While the past few years have sparked a massive influx in e-commerce, consumers are more than happy to opt for deprioritized, eco-conscious shipping speeds, and 78 percent would wait up to a week for a delayed delivery in favor of an environmentally friendly shipment. A whopping 86 percent of respondents were willing to delay their online shipping, provided they were given an incentive to do so. Of this group, 30 percent indicated they would wait for one week or more – up from 28 percent in 2022 – and with 18-to-29 demographic leading the way.
Brand’s Sustainability Claims Have Limited Impact On Consumer Perception
Consumers expressed ambivalence toward corporate environmental messaging. More than half of respondents (56 percent) were indifferent or were not sure whether they could trust brands’ sustainability claims related to their manufacturing, supply chain, or recycling/waste practices. Rather than taking corporations at their word, consumers are more interested in hearing from their peers, with a plurality of survey respondents (32 percent) indicating that consumer reviews carry the most weight in their green purchasing decisions. However, consumer reviews do not carry as much weight across all age groups, with traditionalist shoppers (age 60+) evaluating the sustainability of a product on the use of recycled materials as the most important. Even with more official designations like ESG (environmental and social governance) ratings, consumers are not sold – just 14 percent said ESG scores were the most important determinant, and 50 percent were unfamiliar with ESG scores altogether.
“The survey results tell us loud and clear that brands must walk the walk, and consumers rely heavily on each other to vet corporate ESG claims,” said Wong. “The past year has also demonstrated that consumers remain sensitive to prolonged inflation, with marked shifts in their willingness to spend and a clear trend in favor of shopping secondhand. As consumers navigate and weigh their options for more environmentally-conscious shopping, we can expect to see these patterns continue across retail channels”
Resale Items: When presented with a list of consumer goods that could be purchased secondhand, household furniture and appliances, apparel, and consumer electronics – in that order – were the top three for all age groups except 18-29, which ranked apparel first. Overall, the majority of respondents (54 percent) said they were amenable to purchasing resale household furniture and appliances with consumer electronics coming in second with 45 percent indicating willingness to purchase secondhand.
Eco-conscious Habits: Thrifting secondhand clothes remains popular, with nearly one-third (31 percent) of respondents listing this as the eco-conscious habit they perform most often, a marked increase from the 23 percent reported last year. Looking by age, those 18-29 were more likely to participate in this practice, and those 60 and older were least likely. Recycling or composting was close behind, with 28 percent of all respondents citing that behavior as their top practice; however, it was down from 37 percent in 2022. Reusable bags remains popular among shoppers, with 24 percent ranking that habit as their most frequent environmentally-friendly practice, the same as in 2022.
Loyalty: The top three overall categories consumers have switched loyalty or will consider switching for are household products (65 percent), food products (57 percent), and beauty & wellness (49 percent). By demographics, household products ranked first for all age demographics except 60+ which ranked it second. Beauty was second for ages 18-29 while 30-44 and 45-60 ranked it as third. Only those ages 60+ ranked apparel & footwear in their top three.