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High prices continue to come at a cost to the planet, but sustainable products are a priority for consumers

23 October 2023
  • Cost is a barrier to adopting a more sustainable lifestyle, with the majority of those not doing so saying it is too expensive (62%);
  • One in three (30%) stopped purchasing certain brands and products because of sustainability-related concerns;
  • However, one in four (26%) are still prepared to pay more for sustainable products;
  • Consumers concentrate on ‘at home’ sustainable behaviours such as recycling and those that save money;
  • Cutting energy consumption prioritised over longer-term energy efficiency solutions.

Cost is an increasingly large barrier to a more sustainable lifestyle in 2023, with the majority of consumers saying they haven’t adopted sustainable behaviours in the last 12 months because it is too expensive, according to the fourth edition of Deloitte’s Sustainable Consumer 2023 report. The survey of 2,000 people in the UK showed that, of the consumers who did not adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, 62% blamed cost, up 10% on 2022.

However, many consumers are making more conscious sustainable purchasing decisions, with close to one in three (30%) saying they have stopped purchasing certain brands or products because of ethical or sustainability-related concerns.

For most consumers, sustainability starts at home, with the majority adopting activities such as recycling (76%), reducing food waste (68%) and limiting single use plastic (64%).

Adopting circularity

There has been an increase in consumers adopting circularity (the practice of renewing, reusing or recycling something) in the past year. The research shows that over half (55%) repaired an item instead of replacing it (53% in 2022) and 46% bought second hand or refurbished items (40% in 2022). In addition, 76% say they would consider using a repair service (73% in 2022).

Emily Cromwell, ESG lead for the consumer industry at Deloitte, commented: “For most, adopting a more sustainable lifestyle starts with recycling or reducing waste at home. However, many consumers are beginning to actively consider sustainability when buying products and services, as well as considering their overall lifecycle.

“The cost-of-living crisis is also having an impact, with sustainable behaviours that help people to spend less seeing the largest year-on-year uplift, and given inflationary pressures, the increasing adoption of circular practices could be more about saving money than saving the planet. Whatever the reason, the growth of conscious buying habits is welcome. The question is, how much of this behavioural change will become permanent?”

Consumers cut back on energy consumption

Almost a quarter of consumers (23%) have switched to what they believe is a renewable energy supplier in the past 12 months. While most consumers have tried to lower their energy consumption by cutting things like heating (81%) and washing clothes at a lower temperature (74%), a third or less have invested in longer term energy-saving solutions such as home insulation (25%), solar panels, energy-efficient appliances (36%) or double glazing (31%).

Looking ahead to the next 12 months, 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.

Taking stock to gain trust

A third (34%) of consumers stated that their trust in brands would be improved if they were recognised as an ethical/sustainable provider by an independent third party. A similar proportion (32%) claimed that their trust in brands would be improved if they had a transparent, accountable, and socially and environmentally responsible supply chain. Consumers also value net-zero goals, with 27% saying they would trust brands more if they target net-zero by reducing carbon emissions, rather than relying on carbon offsetting./p>

Emily Cromwell added: “Consumers want businesses and institutions to take the lead in supporting them in their adoption of more environmentally sustainable habits and are prepared to be loyal to those who do. It is key that businesses work together with policymakers not only to make sustainable choices more affordable, but also to share better information around the impact of buying choices on the environment. This will be key to support a long-term change in consumer behaviour.”