Today, 25% of Australians report that they have boycotted a brand for sustainability reasons, compared to 14% just over twelve months ago. This behaviour is heavily skewed towards the younger generations, with 41% of Millennials reporting boycotting behaviour compared to just 6% of Baby Boomers. These figures come from a new two-part study by InSites Consulting in July 2019 and October 2020, aimed at assessing the change in consumer sentiment and behaviour towards sustainability caused by the Australian bushfire crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.
With three quarters of Australian consumers believing that brands and companies have a responsibility to take care of the planet, this increase in boycotting behaviour highlights the lengths that some will go to in order to influence brands to make positive change. 52% agree that brands and companies have brought awareness to more people about climate change and 69% feel more positive about companies that are making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, however, that is clearly not enough for some. The main reasons consumers give for boycotting a brand are not being circular (21%), not reducing CO2 emissions (19%) and not caring about animal welfare (19%).
The persistent drought and last summer’s destructive bushfires have made the impact of climate change and the vulnerability of biodiversity on the continent very visible to most Australians. They understand that government and citizen action won’t suffice to address the world’s next potential disaster after the Covid19 pandemic. Consumers count on big corporates and innovative challengers to come up with green innovations and short term plans to reduce harm done to the planet as well as regenerate and replenish what has been lost.
Sustainable consumer behaviour is on the rise due to the bushfire and healthcare crises
With 82% of Australians agreeing that sustainability is important today, it’s promising that many are already acting upon their beliefs, with 84% recycling at home and 82% using up leftovers. Surprisingly, Gen X consumers are self-reporting more sustainable habits than the younger Gen Z consumers!
The bushfire and healthcare crises of 2019-20 have certainly impacted consumer behaviour when it comes to acting sustainably. 75% of Australians today claim to limit their water usage (up from 64% pre-bushfires) and 53% are choosing to holiday by train/car/bus (up from 32% pre-COVID-19). For those who aren’t yet living sustainably, accessibility (62%) and affordability (61%) are the key barriers in doing so.
“We are often asked by clients if sustainability is still important in COVID times. This Australian research quantifies the answer as a very strong YES! Consumers demonstrate this by their actions in their own lives. We all know that when consumers start taking steps, brands need to pay attention. As consumer take their own steps, to reduce food waste, recycle at home they also recognise brands that take action, businesses and brands need to pay attention to what they are doing and saying in this important area”. says Erica van Lieven, Managing Director and partner InSites Consulting Australia
‘Energy’ and ‘Meat’ ranked as most important industries for sustainability
When considering the importance of sustainability in different industries, Australian consumers rank energy sources (46,5%) and meat products (31,5%) as the top two. Homecare and fish rank joint-third (25%). Tourism and travel (16%) only ranked tenth overall, but this was an increase compared to pre-COVID-19, implying that the travel ban caused many to re-think the importance of sustainability in the industry.
Whilst the banking industry did not feature highly overall, it was considered important for Gen Z consumers; 14% put banking in their ‘top 5’ compared to Gen Y (9%), Gen X (3%) and Baby Boomers (2%). Highlighting just how important this sector is for Gen Z, 14% said they were prepared to pay up to 25% more for ethical banking products. Despite this, 64% of all consumers felt that they should not have to pay more for sustainable alternatives in any of the product categories.
The facts and figures in this article are based on a two-part study conducted by InSites Consulting in July 2019 and October 2020 among 401 respondents from four generations (Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y and Generation Z) in Australia (400 per wave). The sample is representative for each generation.
Eager for more? Watch the full recording of our Conscious Consumption Australian virtual event with Joeri Van den Bergh. How sustainable is sustainability for brands in Australia post-COVID-19? Tune in to find out!