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08/06/2021

Sustainability a top consumer priority—but who should pay for it?

The EY Future Consumer Index Survey finds 69% of Canadian consumers expect companies to solve sustainability issues
recycling consumer

Sustainability is quickly climbing to the top of consumers' priorities, but at the same time affordability is weighing heavily on their minds, according to the EY Future Consumer Index Survey. 

More than half (61%) of those surveyed say they plan to pay more attention to the environmental impact of what they consume, while 64% say they intend to focus more on value for money. This, of course, creates some tension over who should pay for sustainability, according to EY.

"Consumers often say they'll pay more for sustainable products and services, but then don't support that intention with action," says Lokesh Chaudhry, EY Canada consumer co-leader. "Retailers looking to help bridge the gap between action and intention, and do so profitably, will need to shift their mindsets to creating products that reflect the concerns of consumers, while ensuring that business operations behind the brand meet those expectations as well."

With many Canadians spending more time at home and looking to keep budgets tight, they’re also shifting to a more sustainable way of living—whether that means recycling or reducing plastic waste (91%), composting products (58%), buying organically (49%) or bringing reusable shopping bags to stores (88%).

"Homes have now become a hub from which people work, order deliveries, exercise and stay entertained, presenting a huge opportunity for them to pivot to sustainable choices that positively impact their environment and society," explains Ryan Beck, EY Canada consumer co-leader.

But according to the report, what consumers value and which values they are prepared to actually pay for varies. About three-quarters (77%) of consumers are worried about the impact of the pandemic on their long-term finances, and 59% say price is a more important purchase consideration than ever before. 

So, instead of making significant financial commitments toward sustainability goals, more than half of consumers are pursuing low-impact actions that also save them money, such as conserving energy, water and emissions, according to EY.

"The lack of financial commitment means that most consumers across Canada rely on companies to act as leaders in driving positive social and environmental outcomes," says Chaudhry. "Consumers believe that companies have the ability to make a bigger impact through market-transformative, sustainably-focused processes and innovation."

 

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