Description

The growing number and severity of extreme climate events around the world is increasing consumers’ sustainability awareness and concerns. However, consumers’ self-reported everyday sustainability considerations and priorities have remained consistently nominal since 2023. In addition to the higher costs generally associated with sustainability, consumers’ skepticism and confusion – particularly in regard to recycling protocols – are key barriers to everyday sustainability.

As consumers increasingly look to brands to solve the complex issue of sustainability, brands need to prioritize making sustainable choices transparent, tangible and convenient for consumers. To do so, brand must understand the category nuances of consumers’ sustainability perceptions and expectations, as well as the red flags they believe indicate a brand is unsustainable. Although consumers are willing to make certain sacrifices, there are limits to what they’ll forfeit for sustainability; with that in mind, its crucial for brands to highlight the value-added benefits of eco-friendly products and position them as a better overall value for consumers.

This report looks at the following areas:

  • A look at the current state of sustainability including recent environmental, political and economical developments
  • A cluster segmentation analysis of US consumers’ outlook on and commitment to sustainability
  • Consumers’ everyday sustainability considerations and concerns, compared against Mintel’s 2023 sustainability data
  • A comparison of consumers’ sustainability considerations and behaviors across categories, including food/beverage, household care, beauty/personal care and fashion/apparel
  • The sacrifices consumers are willing – and not willing – to make for sustainability, as well as key barriers and challenges to everyday sustainability
  • Consumers’ perceived ‘red flags’ of unsustainability and opportunities for brands to engage sustainably-minded consumers

As extreme weather incidents and climate concerns increase, patterns of everyday sustainability among American consumers are beginning to take shape.

Lisa Dubina, Senior Culture and Identity Analyst

Table of Contents

    • Market context
  1. Executive Summary

    • What you need to know
    • What consumers want and why
    • Market predictions
    • Opportunities
  2. Market Dynamics

    • Market context
    • Temperatures and extreme weather events continue to escalate, creating a new climate reality around the world
    • COP28 signals for the "beginning of the end" of the fossil fuel era
    • Yet, in the US, the climate crisis continues to be a point of contention in the ongoing culture wars dividing the political right and left
    • The push and pull of the economy vs sustainability
    • Consumer segmentation
    • About a third of consumers are committed to everyday sustainability
    • Graph 1: sustainability consumer segments, 2024
    • Segmentation factors
    • Sustainably Committed consumers are young, urban-dwelling, and likely to be parents
    • Appeal to Sustainably Committed consumers' environmental concerns while also boosting their future outlook on reversing climate change
    • The Sustainably Overconfident segment overindexes as multicultural Gen Xers who are married, employed and affluent
    • Focus on educating Sustainably Overconfident consumers to help ensure their sustainability efforts are impactful and efficient
    • Sustainably Apathetic consumers are more likely to be older individuals who are no longer working and less financially stable
    • Although not a key target for sustainably-focused brands, Sustainably Apathetics may find cost-effective eco solutions appealing
  3. Consumer Insights

    • Consumer fast facts
    • Consumer fast facts (cont.)
    • Commitment to sustainability
    • Although 29% of shoppers consider sustainability, it still falls far behind other key purchase criteria
    • Graph 2: top-of-mind considerations in purchase decisions, 2024
    • Position sustainable purchase options as a better value by highlighting added quality and/or convenience benefits
    • Graph 3: top-of-mind considerations in purchase decisions, by sustainability segments, 2024
    • Graph 4: top-of-mind considerations in purchase decisions, by generation, 2024
    • Consumers' sustainability actions have remained consistently nominal over the past year
    • Consumers' are fairly self-aware of their sustainability or lack thereof, remaining consistent with Mintel's 2023 data
    • Graph 5: self-ranked degree of sustainability in day-to-day life, 2023-24
    • Reflecting the young skew of Sustainably Committed, parents and Hispanic consumers are more likely to consider and prioritize sustainability
    • Graph 6: self-ranked degree of sustainability, by race and Hispanic origin, and by parental status, 2024
    • Sustainability concerns and optimism
    • Recent climate disasters have boosted consumers' awareness of and attention to sustainability
    • Sustainably Committed and young consumers have stepped up their dedication to sustainably in the past year
    • Graph 7: drivers and recency of personal sustainability (any agreement), by sustainability segments, 2024
    • Graph 8: drivers and recency of personal sustainability (any agreement), by generation, 2024
    • Northeast and West coast consumers are more likely to be motivated by recent climate disasters
    • Graph 9: drivers and recency of personal sustainability (any agreement), by region, 2024
    • Appeal to consumers' concerns and position sustainability as personally beneficial to motivate more sustainable behaviors
    • Graph 10: top concerns if sustainability practices don't improve (any rank), 2024
    • The Woolmark Company uses provocative visuals to make the realities of synthetic fabrics personal
    • Highlight wider, societal benefits of sustainability when messaging to younger generations
    • Graph 11: top concerns if sustainable practices don't improve (any rank), by generations, 2024
    • Despite widespread concerns, optimism remains
    • Graph 12: agreement – "I still believe there's time to reverse the effects and threats of climate change," by sustainability segments, 2024
    • Appeal to consumers' optimism and demonstrate how practices are helping to secure a sustainable future
    • Graph 13: agreement – "I still believe there's time to reverse the effects and threats of climate change," by generation and parental status, 2024
    • Sustainability across categories
    • The percentage of consumers prioritizing sustainable fashion and apparel has nearly doubled since 2021
    • Graph 14: category in which it's most important to shop sustainably, 2024 vs 2021
    • This trend is heavily influenced by Sustainably Committed and Gen Z consumers
    • Graph 15: category in which it's most important to shop sustainably, by generation, 2024
    • Food and beverage products are widely considered the easiest to shop sustainably
    • Graph 16: category in which it's easiest to shop sustainably, by sustainability segments, 2024
    • Sustainability barriers and behaviors vary across categories
    • Graph 17: shopping considerations across categories, 2024
    • Reading product labels and prioritizing recyclable packaging is more likely among Sustainably Committed consumers when shopping household care
    • Graph 18: shopping considerations across categories (household care), by Sustainably Committed, 2024
    • Focus on simplifying and standardizing sustainability claims in beauty and personal care
    • Graph 19: shopping considerations across categories (personal care and beauty products), by Sustainably Committed, 2024
    • Highlight tangible and relatable sustainability factors to engage sustainable food and beverage shoppers
    • Graph 20: shopping considerations across categories (food and beverages), by Sustainably Committed, 2024
    • Educate consumers on sustainability considerations and choices in fashion and apparel
    • Graph 21: shopping considerations across categories (fashion and apparel), by Sustainably Committed, 2024
    • Barilla demonstrates creative ways to reuse packaging and avoid waste
    • Sacrifices for sustainability
    • Consumers are more willing to sacrifice their personal time or product quality for sustainability rather than price
    • Graph 22: personal sacrifices consumers are willing to make for sustainability, 2024
    • Parents, in particular, are willing to pay higher prices for sustainability
    • Graph 23: personal sacrifices consumers are willing to make for sustainability, by generation and parental status, 2024
    • There are limits to what consumers are willing to sacrifice for sustainability
    • Graph 24: personal sacrifices consumers are willing to make for sustainability – repertoire analysis – by sustainability segments, 2024
    • Graph 25: agreement – "There are some things that I am not willing to give up in order to live more sustainably (eg red meat, plane travel)," by sustainability segments, 2024
    • There are limits to what consumers are willing to sacrifice for sustainability
    • Close to three in 10 Gen Zs are willing to make three or more personal sacrifices for sustainability
    • Graph 26: personal sacrifices consumers are willing to make for sustainability – repertoire analysis – by generations, 2024
    • Sustainability barriers and challenges
    • Cost, lack of confidence and confusion are key barriers to sustainability
    • Graph 27: sustainability challenges, 2024
    • Demonstrate the impact of everyday sustainability in ways that are tangible and relevant for environmentally-driven consumers
    • Graph 28: sustainability challenges, by generation, 2024
    • adidas shows that "all it takes is one more move" with its Move For The Planet campaign
    • Although the ease or convenience of sustainability is less of widespread barrier, the ins and outs of recycling is a challenge for many consumers
    • Graph 29: sustainability understanding and inconvenience, 2024
    • Keep sustainable choices convenient and time-efficient, especially for busy parents
    • Graph 30: sustainability challenges, by generation and parental status, 2024
    • Sustainability and brands
    • Nearly half of consumers pay attention to and are willing to change their purchasing habits based on brands' sustainability efforts
    • Graph 31: agreement – "I would stop purchasing from a brand I like if it wasn't acting sustainably," by generation, 2024
    • Graph 32: agreement – "I would stop purchasing from a brand I like if it wasn't acting sustainably," by sustainability segments, 2024
    • Stay aware of the behaviors that consumers consider to be sustainability red flags
    • Graph 33: red flags that indicate a brand is unsustainable, 2024
    • Excessive packaging, poor product quality and unfamiliar product materials or ingredients are the top indicators of an unsustainable brand
    • Young consumers are much more cognizant of the sustainability impact of advertising and animal byproducts
    • Graph 34: red flags that indicate a brand is unsustainable, by generation, 2024
    • Mars is reusing and recycling iconic advertisements as part of its climate action initiatives
    • Help consumers overcome the challenges and barriers of sustainability through transparency and trust
    • Graph 35: sustainability opportunities for brands, 2024
    • Sustainably-minded food/beverage and fashion/apparel shoppers are particularly interested in understanding brands' sustainability strategies
    • Graph 36: sustainability opportunities for brands, by category most important to shop sustainably, 2024
    • Shake Shack testing new, healthier and more sustainable culinary oil
  4. Innovation and Marketing Trends

    • Launch activity and innovation
    • Crocs launches nationwide takeback program
    • Pandora switches to 100% recycled silver and gold
    • Marketing and advertising
    • Hellmann's calls for a sustainability SOS: Save Our Sandwiches
    • Make My Money Matter shines a light on the relationship between banks and the fossil fuel industry
  5. Appendix

    • Consumer research methodology
    • Generations
    • Abbreviations and terms

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