Thought Leadership

Ethical Consumption Trends for 2024

Published on
January 3, 2024

We're thrilled to share this guest blog post, contributed by our partners at marketing and creative agency, Onqor:

Ethical consumption. What was once a niche mode of consumerism is now affecting mainstream consumer trends. With over half of consumers taking a conscious approach to buying behaviour, the ethical consumer landscape continues to evolve. Here’s how the coming year is set to shape up. 

Eco Exhaustion Fuelling Brand Promiscuity 

Consumers are now facing what Euromonitor International has termed ‘eco exhaustion.’ 

More than 60% of consumers stated that in 2023 they have tried to have a positive impact on the environment through everyday actions, with 45% believing they were personally contributing to the climate challenge. However, despite consumer efforts, the climate issue persists. Due to lack of notable progression and the continuation of natural disasters, general consumer sentiment is that organisations should be doing more to expedite sustainable change. When it comes to sustainable progression, 58% of consumers believe too much responsibility is placed on the individual rather than with brands. Thus in the coming year, consumers want to see brands stepping up. According to Mintel’s 2024 Global Consumer Trends report, more consumers are affiliating themselves with brands that represent their values and are consequently abandoning those that don’t. The social and emotional value of a brand is of increasing importance as consumers look more towards what brands mean to them on a personal level, as opposed to a societal level. This year we saw a decline in brand loyalty across the board, in part due to diminishing brand trust. McKinsey data shows that Gen Z and Millennials are particularly susceptible to brand switching, as they are five times more likely than older generations to believe newer brands are more innovative than established brands. Whatsmore, Shift Insight research from 2020 revealed that 48% of consumers would buy from a brand as little as possible if that brand failed to live up to their sustainable claims, with 14% stating they would not buy from said brand again. These numbers are likely to grow throughout 2024 due to eco exhaustion paired with an ever growing awareness of greenwashing, further fueling brand promiscuity. 

Declining brand trust poses a challenge for brands, with 49% of consumers believing brands are guilty of greenwashing. So how can brands do more to battle eco exhaustion without it appearing performative? Through real and tangible sustainable action. Wunderman Thompson’s 2023 report Sustainability, Ethics and the Modern Shopper showed 59% of consumers to believe that brands are not doing enough to offset their impact on the environment. Euromonitor advises brands should focus on emission reduction to demonstrate tangible action. According to Deloitte, when a product is labelled as responsibly sourced or manufactured, only one in three consumers will actually consider it to be sustainable. This is because consumers don’t always trust or understand labels fully. Consumers want transparency, which brands can demonstrate with quantifiable data and impact specifics, be it the materials products are made from or the amount of waste saved. This not only shows the consumer the impact from their own purchasing decisions but steps taken by the brand. In using platforms like Provenance, brands can help to fight greenwashing claims by validating their credentials.  

Needing to Battle the Price Barrier 

Reducing food waste and plastic usage were the two most popular actions consumers took this year to reduce environmental impact. However purchasing sustainably produced products was the least popular action taken. The 2023 Modern Shopper report further highlights the brand promiscuity that is likely to increase in the coming year, with 60% of consumers admitting to feeling inclined to switch loyalty from their favourite brands due to the rising cost of living. This is supported by Deloitte’s Conscious Consumer report showing that 63% of Dutch consumers mention price as the greatest barrier for making ethical and sustainable purchasing decisions, followed by lack of trust, information and availability. Whilst 84% of consumers state that sustainability is an important factor in their purchasing decisions, 50% say they are unsure as to whether they would pay a premium for sustainable products during times of inflation. Gen Z is typically willing to pay more for sustainable products, however doesn’t necessarily associate sustainability with luxury or premium goods. The younger cohort believe sustainable shopping should be accessible to everyone. 

Patagonia’s Worn Wear programme is a brilliant example of a brand doing circularity well

Green Loyalty: Making Sustainable Living Accessible 

According to Neilsen, 69% of global consumers feel sustainability is more important to them than it was two years ago, however cost, easy access and lack of clarity prevents individuals from adopting a more sustainable lifestyle. To increase loyalty, brands should consider the ways in which they can make sustainable living more accessible for consumers. According to the 2023 Sustainable Travel report, although consumers want to travel sustainably they find sustainable options too costly. Loyalty programs can be used to make experiences more accessible for consumers, with 42% of survey respondents stating that they would be encouraged to travel sustainably with reward points for making sustainable choices that could be used for perks or discounts through online booking sites. A sure way for brands to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability is to reflect this in their loyalty offerings. Consumers want brands to make sustainability accessible through cost saving initiatives or a circular economy. The Wunderman Thompson report highlights that 63% of shoppers would like to see brands offer a resale or second-hand area on their website. Patagonia’s Worn Wear programme is a brilliant example of a brand doing circularity well, offering customers the opportunity to trade in their used Patagonia gear in return for credit. With increasing demand for accessible sustainability, we’ll likely see more brands engage in and develop circular initiatives over the coming year. 

Quest for Quality 

The Mintel 2024 Consumer Trends report shows budget pressures are causing consumers to make trade offs. This manifests itself in quality received against cost incurred. According to Deloitte, when it comes to attributes that make a product or service sustainable, in the eyes of the consumer, durability and the use of natural or recycled materials are key. In fact, 76% of consumers would pay more, with 43% even paying up to 10% or more for durability. Creating higher quality and more durable products may be a method to combat the price barrier. Mintel urges brands to present sustainable attributes through a quality lens, contributing to the perception of value in how those qualities improve the product from a functional perspective. 

Consumers are more likely to buy from brands offering fast yet sustainable delivery

Online Purchasing: We Want Less Packaging 

Due to the rise of Amazon Prime, Click & Collect and next day delivery options, consumers have become accustomed to receiving orders quickly. However 48% have still expressed a desire for faster delivery. Alongside this, almost a quarter of consumers want to see reduced carbon footprint on deliveries and greater use of environmentally friendly vehicles. As aforementioned, consumers believe too much responsibility is placed on the individual as opposed to the brand when it comes to sustainability. Therefore, consumers are more likely to buy from brands offering fast yet sustainable delivery. Brands who can master this in 2024 will most definitely have the edge. When shoppers were asked what factors would sway them away from the speed and convenience of an online marketplace like Amazon, 13% stated better environmental practices through use of less packaging, reduced carbon footprint and eco-friendly vehicles. Packaging remains a major concern for consumers, with 69% wishing there was less packaging waste with online orders. According to Deloitte, many shoppers indicated that sometimes they are even put off from online shopping due to the use of excessive packaging, with the majority indicating they try to use plastic consciously.

Marketing & Creative Agency

ONQOR is a marketing and creative agency, helping sustainable and ethical brands to connect with the modern conscious consumer.

The Provenance Team

Provenance powers sustainability claims you can trust. The global leader in sustainability marketing technology, Provenance helps brands and retailers share credible, compelling and fact-checked social and environmental impact information at the point of sale. Provenance’s technology is already increasing conversion rates, brand value and market share for customers including Cult Beauty, Douglas, GANNI, Napolina, Arla and Unilever

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