Overcoming the sustainability paradox: US consumers want brands to drive change

From more frequent and extreme storms and unprecedented heatwaves to global protests for equal rights and personal freedom, we are feeling the impact of human-caused pressure on planet and people. Our proprietary research with US citizens (November 2021) shows that 62% of US consumers share a feeling of concern about wasting the planet’s resources. Yet, Earth Overshoot Day comes earlier every year (14th March 2021 in the US).

While sustainability is a key concern amongst consumers, it appears many aren’t acting upon it. So where does the problem lie? What’s creating this sustainability paradox?

A first driver is the fact that sustainability is a holistic, all-embracing concept, making it a very complex matter for consumers. An overload of claims and labels around sustainability only adds to this complexity, fueling consumers’ eco-confusion.

A second dimension driving the sustainability paradox is the so-called ‘say-do gap’, where intentions are high, but actual behaviour is low. Research has shown that although 65% of consumers say they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, only 26% actually do. Based on our proprietary research, we identified four eco-barriers that are holding consumers back from living a more sustainable lifestyle: affordability, accessibility, performance, and convenience.

Brands can play an important role by breaking down these barriers and helping consumers install new, more sustainable habits. In fact, 63% of consumers feel brands have a responsibility to take care of the planet, as national leadership on sustainability is lacking in the US (57% of consumers believe the government is not doing enough).

Our Conscious Consumption report clearly demonstrates that US consumers want businesses and brands to step up; we need to solve our problems with ingenuity. This is a call for action. The time for brands to act is now, because in the end, good business is good business.


Curious for more?

You can read the full article at Or get inspired by Joeri Van den Bergh presenting the findings of our Conscious Consumption research, mixed with refreshing local case studies and illustrations.

Conscious Consumption

Conscious Consumption

Sustainability is a key concern amongst consumers, and this has only increased with the COVID-19 pandemic. This bookzine highlights some of the key barriers amongst consumers as well as their expectations towards brands, through proprietary research, expert interviews with sustainability executives from several industries, and brand illustrations.

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