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Sustainability is Still Top-of-mind for COVID-19 Consumers

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Forty-eight percent of respondents said the pandemic had made them more concerned about the environment.

More than 75% of consumers believe retailers could be doing more to push toward environmental decisions.

A survey conducted by Kearney gathered 1,000 consumers' attitudes on environmental products and practices. The survey was reportedly performed twice “to see whether the outburst of COVID-19 changed consumer sentiment.”

Corey Chafin, a principal in Kearney’s consumer practice, and one of the co-architects of 2020 study, said, “This year we see consumers expressing a more direct link between their health and the health of the planet. This tells us consumers’ pro-environmental sentiments are more than idealistic assertions. When it comes to the environment, consumers mean business.”

In terms of COVID-19, the survey found:

  • Forty-eight percent of respondents said the pandemic had made them more concerned about the environment. 
  • Fifty-five percent of respondents stated that as a result of their COVID-19 experiences they were “… more likely to purchase environmentally friendly products.”

Other highlights include:

  • Seventy-eight percent of consumers believe companies could be doing more to help them make decisions that improve environmental outcomes.
  • Sixty-five percent of consumers expect companies to clearly explain environmental benefits on product labels or websites.
  • Since 2019, 11% more consumers reported shifting their purchases of core products based on environmental claims.
  • While 4% fewer respondents reported price as their most frequent barrier to selecting environmentally friendly products, availability in local stores also saw an uptick of 4%.
  • Consumers’ biggest behavioral shifts were plans to decline plastic utensils with food orders (85% increase) and buying in bulk (164% increase).
  • In the future, 59% of respondents are very likely to bring reusable shopping bags to stores and 57% are very likely to carry reusable mugs or bottles.

Greg Portell, lead partner in Kearney’s global consumer practice, added, “The time for ‘evaluating market response’ is over. It’s past time that branders, retailers, and manufacturers take clear, authentic leadership on environmental issues. In the middle of a pandemic, we see consumers telling us—loudly and clearly—that it’s not enough to cut a check to an environmental organization or have some polished messaging in the annual report. What is important here is executing against those lofty positions in the form of very tactical solutions consumers will perceive as authentic during and after COVID-19. Consumers demand a lot more out of the companies they support.”