Over the last few years, consumers’ priorities have shifted, with the pandemic providing people with the opportunity to reflect on the way they consume and events such as COP26 increasing environmental awareness and highlighting the importance of sustainability.
According to the NielsonIQ Consumer Outlook Survey for 2022, sustainability is significantly more important to shoppers than it has been in previous years, with 50% of respondents in the survey reporting that sustainability would have a greater influence over their purchasing decisions over the next 12 months.
Likewise, a survey from McKinsey revealed that 66% of people consider sustainability when shopping, and this percentage is even higher in the younger demographics surveyed.
More than influencing the products that consumers choose to buy this shift towards sustainable shopping is making people think critically about the volume and type of packaging brands are using to store and deliver these products.
For example, a survey from the Chartered Institute of Marketing found that UK consumers thought companies used too much packaging, as attested by 82% of the respondents, Similarly, 78% actively wanted brands to prioritise sustainable packaging practices – a figure which has significantly increased upon the previous year.
Consumers are also increasingly able to differentiate between the comparative sustainability of different packaging materials, with 77% of respondents to an Accenture survey showing they believed plastic was the least sustainable packaging material, while paper was considered to be the most environmentally friendly option.
However, as consumers become more concerned with environmental issues – and, thus, become more informed – even paper packaging, though a more sustainable option, isn’t going to be enough to satisfy the expectations of the eco-conscious consumer. Research conducted by the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®-C004309) (FSC®) showed that 35% of people actively seek sustainability certification when purchasing wood and paper-based products, as they recognise the importance of healthy forests and sustainable harvesting for the environment.
However, a much greater percentage of respondents (86%) said they avoid buying products that reduce biodiversity.
Consumers will become increasingly vigilant
As awareness increases about the impact that unsustainably sourced paper and wood can have on the environment, it’s likely that – going forward – consumers will become increasingly vigilant about the products and packaging they consume, and check for certifications such as those provided by the FSC® and Soil Association to help minimise the impact of their shopping habits on the environment.
Packaging and printed materials are used by the vast majority of businesses in large volumes. To ensure that businesses are able to minimise their impact on the environment and successfully appeal to the environmentally-minded consumer, they need to ensure the materials used to fulfil their needs are sustainably sourced. More than this, when looking to the future, businesses should consider the benefits of acquiring certifications that indicate their sustainability, so that they can be easily recognised by eco-conscious customers.