The say-do gap
The ‘sustainability paradox’, i.e., the gap between acknowledgement (92% importance score) and action (42% not living sustainably), must be tackled by brands, according to the 86% of consumers who believe that “companies have a responsibility to take care of the planet”.
So, what are the barriers that brands can help consumers overcome? According to our study, 74% of consumers said sustainable living must be more accessible (i.e., options more widely available), and 60% would adopt a more sustainable lifestyle if it cost less time or effort.
73% of South Africans report that they would adopt a more sustainable lifestyle if it was clear which brands are sustainable; this is a call to action for brands. The brands that claim to be (more) sustainable are perceived as more trustworthy (62%), more up to date (66%), and providing a higher level of quality (65%), according to South Africans. Unfortunately, 70% of South African consumers have never heard of B Corp Certification, and a mere 4% have seen the label on a packaging.
‘Buycotting’ on the rise
For those consumers who are aware of brands’ sustainability efforts (or lack thereof), boycotting is one way to express their discontent. 18% of South Africans today report that they have boycotted a brand for sustainability reasons, specifically due to brands showing little or no gender-equality support (24%) and the absence of recycling programs (24%).
There is a rallying cry from consumers at either end of the awareness spectrum, for better behaviour from brands.
“Sustainability is not a problem that governments alone can solve; businesses also have to pull their weight. It is a shared responsibility that needs to be addressed today. Brands need to take on their societal role and take consumers along their journey through active and transparent communication. The time for brands to act is now, because in the end, good business is good business,” says Joeri Van den Bergh, Managing Partner and sustainability expert at InSites Consulting.
‘Energy’ and ‘medication’ ranked as most important industries for sustainability
When considering the importance of sustainability in different industries, South African consumers rank energy sources (51%), medication & supplements (46%), and clothing (39%) as their top three, followed by transport (33%) and meat products (32%). For Gen Z, the clothing industry in particular is considered important, with 46% of them indicating that it is essential for them that clothes are made in a sustainable way (vs 42% Gen X, 31% Gen Y, and 36% baby boomers). Highlighting just how important this sector is for Gen Z, 43% said they were prepared to pay up more for sustainable fashion alternatives. To facilitate this search, the Local Edit app bundles all slow-fashion initiatives in South Africa, making it easy for consumers to invest in local businesses and make sustainable decisions. The team aims to educate consumers about local talent, by telling the designers’ stories and showcasing their products through their app.
The facts and figures in this article are based on a study conducted by InSites Consulting in March 2022 among 803 respondents from four generations (Baby boomers, Generation X, Generation Y and Generation Z) in South Africa. The sample is representative for each generation.
Eager for more? Watch the full recording of our Conscious Consumption South African virtual event with Joeri Van den Bergh. How sustainable is sustainability for brands in South Africa post-COVID-19? Tune in to find out!