Western European consumers and governments are pressuring businesses to operate in a sustainable manner. Student-led protests and debates over investing 25% of the European Union’s budget to fight climate change are shining a brighter light on ethical business practices.
Players in the retailing industry have been making efforts to be more sustainable over the past 20 years. Grocery retailers are focused on eliminating food waste and rethinking packaging while fashion retailers are using recyclable or locally sourced materials. In Western Europe, the retailing industry will need to do more, and quickly, to bolster their sustainability credentials and be on the right side of history in the minds (and wallets) of consumers and governments.
Consumers value sustainability
Understanding the values, attitudes and behaviors of eco-conscious consumers* underscores the increased prevalence and importance of sustainability. In 2019, 14.3% of Western Europeans are eco-conscious consumers. Interestingly, the percentage of eco-conscious consumers is split almost evenly among age groups and mirrors the overall income level brackets; no specific age group leans toward eco-consciousness. Sustainability is a priority regardless of life stage or income level.
These consumers have shopping behaviors that meet their green philosophies: 44% try to shop locally, 56% like to buy fewer, better things and 57% buy secondhand items at least once a year.
Governments are getting involved
In addition to consumers exerting pressure on retailers to become more sustainable, Western European governments are also passing legislation that impacts how retailers operate.
The European Commission approved the Circular Economy Action Plan in December 2015. The goal is to set Europe on a path “toward a climate-neutral, circular economy where pressure on natural and freshwater resources as well as ecosystems is minimized.” The plan outlines ways to extend the life of raw materials and recycle products at the end of their lifecycle. The idea is to create a circular, instead of a linear, path for production. The 54 action items outlined in the Plan have either been completed or are in the stage of completion as of March 2019.
Author: Michelle Grant