This report provides comprehensive and current information and analysis of the sustainability and online shopping market including sustainability market size, anticipated market forecast, relevant market segmentation, and industry trends for the sustainability market in the US.

Current market landscape

Many consumers do not feel equipped with knowledge regarding brands’ and retailers’ sustainability efforts, with 41% having no knowledge on this topic. Brands have their work cut out for them in order to communicate what efforts they have implemented and what the direct implications are to the shopper. Ultimately, how much consumers know about sustainability and if they decide to act on that knowledge remains to be seen but equipping them with information in the first place is a must for brands looking to connect with environmentally conscious consumers.

One of the biggest threats to shopping sustainably is related to the negative effects of greenwashing. The majority of consumers (66%) aren’t sure whether marketing around sustainability is genuine or not. This means that shoppers could be skeptical, even of brands who are doing the right things in the right ways. Transparency and authenticity is needed from brands in order for consumers to feel confident purchasing environmentally friendly products online.

Market share and key industry trends

  • There is opportunity to think outside the cardboard box as 69% of consumers are interested in using refillable products (see Attitudes toward Sustainability).
  • The materials used in a product is the top priority for consumers (43%) when deciding which product to purchase.
  • The vast majority (73%) of consumers think it’s the responsibility of brands and retailers to be more environmentally friendly.

Future market trends in sustainability

Inflation is making it difficult for consumers to shop with sustainability in mind. They are focused on their budgets, the price of products and the quality of items more so than sustainability in the current market. It doesn’t mean that sustainability isn’t important – consumers do want to more actively consider this factor with their shopping habits and purchases, but they will need help in order to make their budgets work. Options such as flexible payment solutions will be key in the current economic environment.

The good news is that consumers are open to learning about and participating in sustainability when shopping online. Consumers do see value in sustainable products as well as options such as returning packaging for reuse and shopping secondhand. Younger consumers will lead the way in sustainability adoption and be a key target market for brands in this arena.

Read on to discover more about the sustainability consumer market, read our US Sustainable Consumer Market Report 2022, or take a look at our other Sustainability research reports.

Quickly understand sustainability in shopping

  • Consumers’ knowledge of sustainability and efforts from brands.
  • Shopping behaviors in regard to sustainability online.
  • Research conducted around sustainability.
  • Important sustainable factors.
  • Influence of price on environmentally friendly products.
  • Brands’ role and actions in sustainability in online shopping.

Covered in this sustainability market report

Brands include: Walmart, Amazon, Goodbuy, Boox, Futurecard, TikTok, Instagram, Vital Farms, Reformation, FibreTrace, Allbirds, Patagonia.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

This report, written by Katie Hansen, a leading analyst in the Retail and eCommerce sector, delivers in-depth commentary and analysis on sustainability market research to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Brands’ sustainable and environmental efforts are attracting the attention of consumers as they shop online. Shoppers are more aware than ever of the waste ecommerce can create and are looking to brands and retailers to address this issue. Education is still needed as consumers learn more about what brands are doing as well as their own direct impact on the environment from shopping online. While inflation is currently making it more difficult for consumers to purchase sustainable items that carry a premium price tag, sustainability will be a key focus for shoppers in the coming years.

Katie Hansen, Retail and eCommerce Analyst
Katie Hansen
Senior Analyst, Retail and eCommerce

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • This Report looks at the following areas
        • Definition
          • Market context
          • Executive Summary

              • Top takeaways
                • Market overview
                  • Figure 1: Sustainability outlook, 2022-27
                • Opportunities and challenges
                  • Sustainability won’t beat out price, quality
                    • Help consumers understand their direct environmental impact
                      • Focus on delivering sustainability in last mile services
                        • Key consumer insights
                        • Market Landscape

                          • By working together, brands and consumers can make the online shopping process more sustainable
                            • Pesky plastic produces problems, pollution
                              • Emissions ignite issues
                                • Returns lead to reduced sustainability
                                  • What this means
                                  • Market Factors

                                    • Economic turbulence shouldn’t detract from sustainability efforts
                                      • Figure 2: Consumer Price Index change from previous year, 2020-22
                                      • Figure 3: Consumer Sentiment Index, 2010-22
                                    • A growing younger population will emphasize the need for sustainability
                                      • Figure 4: Population by generation, 2026 estimates
                                    • Tech enables greater participation, education in sustainability
                                    • Competitive Strategies and Market Opportunities

                                        • Browser extensions help consumers shop consciously online
                                          • Figure 5: Goodbuy helps consumers buy better
                                        • Packaging steps away from waste, dives into sustainability
                                          • Figure 6: Boox showcases the ugly side of delivery while offering solutions
                                        • An Amazon update: trying to lead the way but challenged by its size
                                          • A new payment option rewards consumers for shopping sustainably
                                              • Figure 7: FutureCard keeps consumers updated with sustainable brands to shop
                                            • Collaborate with suppliers to provide eco-friendly options to shoppers
                                            • The Sustainability-conscious Consumer – Fast Facts

                                              • Sustainability Knowledge

                                                • Education is still critical for many consumers
                                                  • Figure 8: Sustainability knowledge, 2022
                                                • Younger consumers are knowledgeable shoppers
                                                  • Figure 9: Sustainability knowledge, by generation, 2022
                                                • Multicultural consumers are aware of brands’ sustainability efforts
                                                  • Figure 10: Sustainability knowledge, by race and Hispanic ethnicity, 2022
                                                • Consumers look to expand their sustainability knowledge
                                                    • Figure 11: Sustainability interest, 2022
                                                  • Shoppers need education around delivery and return practices
                                                    • Figure 12: Microinfluencers can reach a niche audience
                                                    • Figure 13: Sustainability interest – Deliveries and returns, 2022
                                                • Attitudes toward Sustainability

                                                  • Consumers intend to get involved with a variety of sustainability initiatives
                                                    • Figure 14: Attitudes toward sustainability, 2022
                                                  • Younger consumers want to shop sustainably but budgets can be a barrier
                                                    • Figure 15: Attitudes toward sustainability, by generation, 2022
                                                  • Traditional purchase factors still drive interest over sustainability
                                                    • Figure 16: Sustainability versus other purchase drivers, 2022
                                                  • Women are more likely to try a sustainable brand outside their comfort zone
                                                    • Figure 17: Sustainability versus other purchase drivers, by gender, 2022
                                                  • Younger consumers are split between focusing on sustainability and price
                                                    • Figure 18: Sustainability versus ecommerce traits – Price, by generation, 2022
                                                • Sustainable Shopping Behaviors

                                                  • Consumers remain interested in sustainable services, albeit a bit less than last year
                                                    • Figure 19: Services of interest, 2022
                                                  • Younger generations are more conscious of their sustainable shopping behavior
                                                    • Figure 20: Services of interest, by generation, 2022
                                                  • Reward frequent online shoppers for sustainable shopping behavior
                                                    • Figure 21: Services of interest, by online shopping frequency, 2022
                                                • Sustainability Research Behaviors

                                                  • Transparency, authenticity must be at the heart of sustainability marketing
                                                    • Figure 22: Vital Farms show a day in the life of its egg-laying chickens
                                                    • Figure 23: Attitudes toward sustainability marketing, by generation, 2022
                                                  • Sources of information
                                                    • Consumers want to trust sources for brands
                                                      • Figure 24: Sources of information, 2022
                                                    • Multicultural consumers actively research sustainability across a myriad of platforms
                                                      • Figure 25: Sources of information, by race and Hispanic ethnicity, 2022
                                                    • Regulation knowledge and sustainability claims of interest
                                                      • Brands can be leaders in sustainability education
                                                        • Figure 26: Claims knowledge, 2022
                                                      • Tangible claims remain most sought after
                                                        • Figure 27: Allbirds highlights product impact with carbon impact labels
                                                        • Figure 28: Claims of interest, 2022
                                                      • Younger consumers look for a wider range of claims from brands
                                                        • Figure 29: Claims of interest, by generation, 2022
                                                      • Time spent researching
                                                        • Consumers are looking for quick consumable content
                                                          • Figure 30: Patagonia takes to longer-form content to provide more in-depth sustainability education
                                                          • Figure 31: Time dedicated to research, 2022
                                                        • Younger consumers are willing to spend more time on sustainability research
                                                          • Figure 32: Time dedicated to research, by gender and age, 2022
                                                      • Important Sustainability Factors

                                                        • Consumers shift slightly to focus on implications of last mile services
                                                          • Figure 33: Important purchase factors, 2022
                                                        • Hispanic consumers need transparency about product materials
                                                          • Figure 34: Important purchase factors, by race and Hispanic ethnicity, 2022
                                                        • Parents consider a variety of sustainable factors
                                                          • Figure 35: Important purchase factors, by parental status, 2022
                                                      • Influence of Price

                                                        • Willingness to pay more for eco-friendly products wanes
                                                          • Figure 36: Willingness to pay more, any category, 2022
                                                        • Consumers are open to higher prices within certain categories
                                                          • Figure 37: Willingness to pay more, by category, 2022
                                                        • The intent to purchase at a higher price doesn’t mean consumers actually will
                                                          • Figure 38: Willingness to pay more, any category, by generation, 2022
                                                        • Likewise, ability to pay a premium doesn’t mean that consumers are willing to do so
                                                          • Figure 39: Willingness to pay more, by household income, 2022
                                                      • Brands’ Role in Sustainability

                                                        • Consumers look to brands to lead sustainability initiatives
                                                          • Figure 40: Attitudes toward sustainability – Brands’ role, 2022
                                                        • Returns, waste weigh on consumers’ minds
                                                          • Figure 41: Brands’ responsibilities, 2022
                                                        • Generations prioritize different sustainability initiatives from brands
                                                          • Figure 42: Brands’ responsibilities, by generation, 2022
                                                        • Parents look for assistance when disposing of packaging, items no longer in use
                                                          • Figure 43: Brands’ responsibilities, by parental status, 2022
                                                      • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                        • Data sources
                                                          • Consumer survey data
                                                            • Consumer qualitative research
                                                              • Abbreviations and terms
                                                                • Abbreviations
                                                                  • Terms

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