We’ve just been reading an interesting report by Deloitte Consulting called “Consumer 2020”. In the section on sustainable consumption the report notes that given current populations projections, if everyone were to adopt the historic consumption patterns of the average US citizen, we would need five planet earths by 2030. “Without sustainable consumption it will become increasingly difficult to meet the collective expectations and aspirations of the world’s consumers”.
The report points out that while a majority of today’s consumers indicate a willingness to “buy green”, behaviour is still mainly dictated by price, quality and convenience rather than sustainability – “the disconnect between awareness and action is stark”.
The report concludes that “whatever level of awareness they have now, it is highly likely that consumers in the next decade will live more sustainably whether they want to or not” for a variety of reasons including:
- Resourcing costs – the impact of true resourcing costs such as fuel and transportation will be reflected in the price of products, making unsustainable products less attractive to consumers.
- Awareness and education – typically once consumers become ‘carbon-footprint’ educated they change consumption habits across several categories (including electronics).
- Self-interest – consumers will start to see the benefits from products that have less energy requirements and that last longer, especially in categories such as consumer electronics.
- Sense of citizenship – people are driven not just by self-interest but also by their obligations to the community, region and nation to which they belong. Connecting their purchase choices with the impact they have on their local environment and region will help drive more sustainable consumption patterns.
- Lack of other options – many consumers will adapt sustainable habits as the world around them changes. For example, the European Union has required the adoption of longer life light bulbs, and some countries charge a tax on the use of disposable shopping bags. A mixture of these kind of regulatory changes plus pro-active adoption by supermarket chains and large retailers will push even recalcitrant consumers to a more sustainable buying pattern.
You can read the full Deloitte report here.