Five sustainable consumer trends to get excited about
6 August 2019 at 5:43 pm
The sustainability revolution is underway, according to a new report examining how sustainability is disrupting key sections of the global economy. Here, we highlight five sustainable consumer trends outlined in the report that are transforming the way people shop.
Generation Investment Management’s Sustainability Trends Report 2019 said there was an urgent need to shift our economic system by embracing “sustainability-driven disruption”.
This shift is already being driven by consumers, in what the report called the “beginning of a consumer sustainability revolution”.
While there is still a long way to go, below are five trends already making a difference.
1. People are increasingly looking for more sustainably sourced fashion
Google Trends shows the number of searches globally on “sustainable fashion” has grown significantly in recent years.
While searches for the term were relatively scarce at the start of the decade, interest has boomed since 2016.
With sustainability becoming a mainstream consumer option, businesses have adjusted their products accordingly.
A survey of stock apparel product descriptions from more than 52,000 brands found a 429 per cent increase in sustainable/sustainably sourced products from 2015 to 2018.
Google has also recently partnered with Stella McCartney to measure the environmental impact of the fashion industry and improve sustainability in clothing supply chains.
2. People are questioning whether they always need to buy new products
The report noted people were becoming more interested in buying used goods or renting them.
This is good for sustainability as sharing assets puts less strain on scarce resources.
Research shows the global market in second-hand luxury goods has grown nine per cent between 2015 and 2018.
The worth of the industry grew from €17 billion (A$28 billion) to €28 billion (A$46 billion) over this period.
This ties into the push for sustainable fashion over fast fashion, with the fashion resale market growing 21 times faster than the retail market over the past three years, according to GlobalData research.
3. Consumers are waging a war on plastic
People these days are expecting their goods to come with less plastic packaging.
Public and policymaker interest in plastic waste has steadily risen since 2012, while Australia is in the midst of a recycling crisis.
With China no longer taking Australia’s recyclable plastics, it is impossible for the nation to ignore the fact that it needs to find a way of handling the 600,000 tonnes of rubbish it was previously offloading.
The retail industry has heeded the message, with supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths banning single-use plastics.
Lightweight, single-use plastic shopping bags are also set to be banned from all Victorian stores.
But the report warned plastic use continues to grow at unsustainable rates, despite growing awareness of the dangers of plastic pollution.
4. Interest grows in the burgeoning sustainable food industry
Consumer demand for sustainably produced food is rising, the report says.
While meat consumption continues to rise globally, many alternatives are beginning to emerge.
Investment in Impossible Foods’ plant-based meat substitutes grew from US$6.2 million (A$9.1 million) in 2011 to US$114 million (A$168 million) in 2018.
Alternative meats put far less strain on the natural world.
Research has shown the growing and processing of an Impossible meat patty uses 87 per cent less water than a regular beef burger.
The fake meat consumer trend is evident in Australia, with Beyond Meat’s revenues reaching $97.4 million in the second quarter of 2019, up from $25.1 million during the same period last year.
5. People are switching to online shopping and turning to e-commerce
Research suggests the environmental impacts of e-commerce are lower than traditional commerce.
The carbon footprint of buying a toy in an urban area is lower if bought online compared to driving to the local shops.
Although experts say some of the main environmental impacts occur at higher end of the supply chain, meaning conscious consumers should research responsible companies if trying to save the planet.
Online retail sales in Australia are expected to exceed $30 billion for the first time by the end of this year, but the report warned that retailing’s shift online is causing growing unemployment in the sector.