Fifty-eight per cent of Australians value sustainability more than they did two years ago, according to research from market analysts, NielsenIQ (NIQ).

Within the Asia-Pacific region, interest in sustainable shopping is rapidly increasing, with 86 per cent of Indonesian shoppers, 74 per cent of Thais, and 72 per cent of Singaporeans all saying they value sustainability more than they did two years previously.

Overall, NIQ’s Global Sustainability Report found that 69 per cent of shoppers worldwide feel that sustainability is more important to them than it was two years ago.

Despite a significant rise, Australian shoppers recorded the second lowest global ranking in placing importance upon sustainability, with India the lowest. It appears that access to sustainable products and shopping experiences could be an issue here – suggesting a chance for retailers to capture an untapped market.

Australian shoppers were significantly less likely to say it was easy to shop for products in a sustainable manner. Only 37 per cent of Australian consumers said they were able to shop sustainably with ease, versus a global average of 50 per cent. Regionally, Thailand came out on top, with nearly 75 per cent of consumers finding it easy to shop sustainably.

Justin Sargent, President of NIQ Asia Pacific, believes there is the possibility for retailers to engage more with environmentally-minded customers.

“Shoppers around the Asia Pacific region are more committed to sustainability, but many have found it difficult to make daily decisions that support true sustainability impact,” he said.

“It needs to be easier for people to live and consume in a sustainable way that aligns with other daily pressures. This is a huge opportunity for retailers and manufacturers to align to an urgent consumer want and need.”

Sargent says the immediate effects of climate change are being reflected by the increasing importance of sustainability to shoppers in the region. He believes retailers should therefore take notice of these results and adjust their offering.

“Consumers across the Asia Pacific region are clearly feeling the personal impact of extreme weather events and are more aware and informed of the importance of sustainability – ultimately fuelling their demand and the urgency for corporate action and accountability,” Sargent said.

“Positive consumer sentiment toward sustainability has been growing for more than a decade. However, the impact of purchasing preferences has yet to inspire a green revolution within the retail industry. These results indicate that now is the time for that to change.”

Change makers worldwide

The NIQ report also looked into the key factors behind the increasing importance of sustainability, finding there were three main drivers behind this: government mandates, increased costs as a result of extreme weather, and the growth of consumer demand for more environmentally-friendly products.

According to NIQ, individual shoppers are already adjusting their behaviours, with around half of global consumers taking their own bags, lessening waste and minimising power usage. However, significant barriers to action remain – 41 per cent of customers said cost is stopping them from adopting more sustainable lifestyles, while 35 per cent cited access and 26 per cent a ‘lack of clarity’.

There are also key takeaways for producers too. Seventy-eight per cent of global consumers stated that companies should be mandated to show full transparency of their supply chain, so shoppers can make better informed decisions. Moreover, 76 per cent called for companies to take more initiative in reducing their environmental footprint.

Yet, NIQ’s findings suggest these actions must go beyond lip-service. Nearly 80 per cent of customers said they would stop purchasing from a company that had been found to be greenwashing, demonstrating the emphasis that shoppers are putting upon trust and transparency.

The path ahead

NIQ’s Vice President of Global Thought Leadership, Nicole Corbett, believes that the near future will see a transformation in the retail sector.

“The outlook of rapid change across the next five to 10 years that will force companies, manufacturers, brands, and retailers to transform and commit to real sustainable business models,” she said.

“We are now at a tipping point, where companies who have been proactive and genuine about climate action will be at a massive advantage as industries grapple to meet requirements and mandated sustainable efforts.

“To meet targets that become increasingly stringent over the next 10 years, we anticipate a great deal of scrambling from companies that now realise it’s crunch time. They will look for easy wins in the short-term but the game changer is the requirement to report and validate their footprint and gain visibility of emissions and resource use across their whole value chain. This will require a long-term shift and for many a departure from how they currently operate.”

To read more about this report, click here.

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