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What consumers are doing to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle

Sustainable Consumer 2023

One

Compared with 2022, on balance more consumers have been adopting a sustainable lifestyle. For most consumers, adopting a more sustainable lifestyle starts at home, recycling products or reducing waste. • 76% recycled or composted household waste in the last 12 months.

Two

The cost of living crisis is having an impact on how consumers are adopting a more sustainable lifestyle, with behaviours that support spending less seeing the largest increase this year. • 55% repaired an item instead of buying a new equivalent item. • 46% bought second-hand items. • 42% paid more for longer-lasting products.

Three

This year, across several categories, there was a higher proportion of consumers not buying certain brands or products because of ethical or sustainability-related concerns. • One in three consumers (30%) stopped purchasing certain brands or products because of ethical or sustainability-related concerns. Compared with a year ago a higher proportion of consumers stopped making purchases particularly in grocery, beauty and hospitality due to such concerns.

Four

More consumers are purchasing carbon offsets and opting for renewable sources of energy. • 16% of consumers claimed to have purchased carbon offsets • 23% of consumers said they have switched to what they believe is a renewable energy supplier.

Five

‘Circularity’ is a growing consideration. Nearly one in two consumers: • make more of a conscious effort to return products that have reached their end of life to the manufacturer or a recycling plant (46%) • are reselling more of their possessions than they did a year ago (39%). One in three consumers: • buy more second-hand products than they did a year ago (34%) • decide whether to buy a product based on how much plastic the product or its packaging contains (33%) • check whether a product is made from recycled material (32%) • check whether a product is biodegradable before making a purchase (30%).

Six

Around one in three consumers have invested in energy saving solution. • 36% have upgraded to more energy efficient appliances • 31% have upgraded to double glazing windows and 25% improved the property insulation (e.g. wall, roof, cavity, underfloor) • around one in ten plan to install solar panels or replace their boiler with a heat pump in the year ahead.

Seven

Transport usage remains below pre-COVID levels. Compared with before the pandemic: • almost one in four consumers (23%) claim to have driven for their personal use much less frequently in the past 12 months • nearly one in five consumers (17%) claim to have substantially reduced how often they fly for their personal use.

Eight

There is increasing consumer interest in sustainability beyond consumer goods into services more broadly. • One in ten consumers (12%) have switched some, or all, of their personal financial investments to more ethical or sustainable investment options.

 

Sustainable behaviours

 

On balance more consumers have adopted a sustainable lifestyle in 2023 compared with a year ago.

 

Compared with 2022, there has been an increase in the proportion of consumers saying they have adopted a more sustainable lifestyle across 11 out of 23 sustainable behaviours we track in our research. In contrast, there was a decline across six of them. These results indicate that on balance more consumers have been adopting a sustainable lifestyle.

For most consumers, adopting a more sustainable lifestyle starts at home, recycling products or reducing waste. Next consumers are reconsidering how they shop and consume, including limiting their consumption of single-use plastic, reducing the number of new products they buy, or buying more seasonal products.

In a sign that the cost of living crisis is having an impact, behaviours with the largest increase in adoption this year include buying more second-hand items, paying more for longer-lasting products, repairing more, and using the car less. In contrast, our data shows that fewer consumers have reduced their amount of air travel. With the recovery of the travel sector this year, more consumers have been spending on holidays after years of pandemic travel restrictions.

However, the data also points to some encouraging emerging trends around attitudes to sustainability. For instance, 16% of consumers claim to have purchased carbon offsets in the last 12 months, such as paying for tree planting to compensate for carbon emissions, and close to one in four (23%) said they have switched to what they believe is a renewable energy supplier.

Overall, our data points to increasing consumer interest in sustainability beyond consumer goods into services more broadly. For example, in financial services, there is growing consumer scrutiny surrounding businesses’ sustainability claims and credentials. According to our data, 12% of respondents have switched some, or all, of their personal financial investments to more ethical or sustainable investment options. There is an opportunity for the services industry to do more to engage consumers around sustainable issues including by providing more information and a better selection of sustainable and ethical products and services.

 
What actions consumers are taking to have a more sustainable lifestyle


Thinking about the last 12 months, which, if any, of the following have you done, specifically to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle?

 

Behaviours by category

 

Consumers are most likely to make sustainable or ethical choices in the categories they shop from most frequently and deem essential.

 

It is in the more frequently purchased categories, for example groceries, that consumers adopt sustainable behaviourssuch as recycling or composting household waste, reducing food waste, limiting the use of single-use plastic, buying more seasonal or locally produced goods, or reducing their consumption of meat.

Compared with 2022, a higher proportion of consumers claim to have stopped purchasing certain brands or products because of ethical or sustainability-related concerns across several product and service categories including grocery, beauty and hospitality.

Consumers have also increased their sustainable behaviours in clothing and footwear, and electrical equipment. More consumers claim to have repaired an item in those categories compared with last year, and a higher proportion of consumers say that they pay more for what they consider longer-lasting products. These behaviours are not just better for the environment, they are also more financially sustainable in the longer term. More consumers are also saying they are choosing brands in these categories that demonstrate ethical practices and values compared with a year ago.

 

Actions consumers are taking to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, by categories


Generally, for which, if any, of the following types of consumer goods or services have you taken this action?

 

Attitudes to circularity

 

Circularity is growing in popularity.

 

Compared with 2022 there has been an increase in the proportion of consumers taking circularity into consideration across 12 of 15 relevant behaviours. The biggest changes relate to circular activities aimed at saving money: 76% of consumers say they would consider using a repair service (compared with 73% in 2022), 39% are reselling more of their unwanted possessions (compared with 32% in 2022) and 34% are buying more second-hand products this year (compared with 29% in 2022).

 
Attitudes to circularity
 

To what extent do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements?
(% who agree)

 

Energy consumption

 

The huge rise in energy prices in 2023 drove most consumers to save energy wherever possible.

 

According to our data, most consumers have tried to lower their energy consumption, for example by reducing the number of hours when their heating is on, washing clothes at lower temperatures, turning off appliances from standby or switching to energy-saving lighting. However, less than a third of consumers have invested in energy-saving solutions such as home insulation, solar panels, better energy-efficient appliances or double-glazing. Looking ahead, with consumers continuing to expect high energy costs, the majority intend to continue to reduce their energy consumption wherever possible, but just over one in ten plan to install solar panels or replace their boiler with a heat pump.

 
Energy consumption at home
 

Thinking now specifically about your energy consumption at home in the last 12 months, which, if any, of the following have you done and are planning to do in the next 12 months?

 

Attitudes to transport

 

Transport usage remains below pre-COVID levels.

 

As seen by the slow recovery of the transport industry since the COVID pandemic, almost one in four consumers (23%) claim to have driven for their personal use much less frequently in the past 12 months compared with before the pandemic. Furthermore, nearly one in five consumers (17%) claim to have substantially reduced how often they fly for their personal use compared with before the pandemic. The same proportion of consumers claim that, compared with before the pandemic, they are more likely to choose to travel by train rather than fly or drive.

 
Usage of various modes of transport in the past 12 months compared with before COVID-19
 

Thinking about how much you use various modes of transport (by road, by rail or by air) for work or for your personal life in the last 12 months compared with before the COVID-19 pandemic (i.e. compared with before March 2019), which, if any, of the following apply to you?

These findings are based on a consumer survey carried out by independent market research agency YouGov, on behalf of Deloitte. This survey was conducted online with a nationally representative sample of more than 2,000 UK adults aged 18+, between 7th and 9th July 2023.

Explore the research findings

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