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Sustainability More Top of Mind Among Consumers

Report shows acceleration of concern about plastic pollution, package recycling, food shortages and food waste
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Consumer recyling
New research shows that consumers are taking more actions to become sustainable at home, including recycling and cutting food waste.

A new report shows that consumer concerns about the environment are accelerating. According to market research firm Mintel, the number of consumers citing climate change as a top environmental concern has risen to 46% from 39% over the past year alone.

Following climate change and air quality, plastic pollution is the third top environmental concern shared by consumers participating in the Mintel Consulting Sustainability Barometer. A third of those polled said that plastic pollution is a top worry.

In addition to shopper issues with plastic pollution, grocers can take note of the report’s other insights. Mintel found that concerns over water and food shortages have made the most significant gains in priorities over the past year, attributed to supply challenges stemming from extreme weather events and war in Ukraine.

People are taking steps towards more sustainable lifestyles at home, too. The amount of consumers who recycle packaging has gone up to 60%, while more than half (53%) of survey respondents say that they are doing additional meal planning to avoid food waste.

[Read more: "Most Americans Buying, Thinking About Plant-Based Products"]

On the flip side of eco-anxiety, consumers are positive about impactful change. A strong majority of 68% of consumers say that doing things that benefit the environment make them feel happy.

“The fact that concerns around climate change and water and food shortages are being prioritized ahead of previous preoccupations with waste and plastic pollution points towards the emergence of a more informed and hardened global consumer. Soaring temperatures, extreme weather events and disruptions to food, water and energy supply chains have given consumers a harsh reality check, hurting their health and wallets, and activating them in the process,” said Richard Cope, senior trends consultant for Mintel Consulting.

He continued, "In the meantime, escalating activism, regulatory reaction and the sheer scale of the challenges ahead and solutions required have educated global consumers enough to sniff out greenwashing campaigns and there’s no going back from that. This means companies will increasingly need to assert — and clearly communicate — the truly impactful actions they are taking to reduce emissions, rather than simply offset them or dip their toes into populist ‘plastic free’ campaigns. This growing awareness around resource inputs and emission and waste outputs will also spell the end for ‘environmentally friendly’ as a credible marketing term.”

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