In a broad-based consumer survey released this week by ING, part of ING Capital LLC, researchers found that “consumer adoption of circular practices hinges on convenience, availability and understanding of sustainable options offered by companies.”
The “circular economy survey” showed that shoppers would even drop a brand based on how they perceived the environmental stewardship of that brand.
The survey was based on responses from more than 15,000 consumers in 11 countries across Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific region. The respondents were polled during the second half of last year and focused on buyers of fashion apparel, electronics and food brands.
In a statement, ING said “consumer attitudes have reached a tipping point, leading them to avoid brands that don’t prioritize sustainability and environmental issues.”
Still, shoppers said they’ll engage in the “convenience economy” model — that is, unless brands “offer a more seamless transition toward the “circular economy.” The poll found that 83 percent of those surveyed believe their “behavior” and purchasing choices can have a positive impact on addressing today’s environmental challenges.
“Furthermore, 61 percent say they would be less willing to buy a company’s product if they discovered it was performing poorly on environmental practices,” ING stated, adding that the report also highlighted “where consumers are already engaging in circular activities and their appetite for new product and service models.”
Isabel Fernandez, member of the management board and global head wholesale banking at ING, said consumers are “ever more concerned about their environmental impact, including that of the companies they are buying from, and are willing to walk away from brands they consider not to be sustainable.”
“While the sustainability message doesn’t resonate with everyone, the potential of the circular economy to redefine customer ‘convenience’ could win over even the most ardent climate skeptics,” Fernandez added.
ING stated in the report that for businesses to better leverage the opportunities of a circular economy, they need to assess the barriers of “widespread consumer adoption.”
For example, in the electronics industry, this would include focusing on education and awareness. The survey found that just 21 percent of those polled “think companies provide detailed information on the overall environmental impact of products” while 41 percent said they didn’t know where to access repair services. And 71 percent said they were not aware of device-sharing platforms while 39 percent couldn’t tell the difference between non-recyclable and recyclable plastics.
Other barriers center on “empowerment and reassurance.” For example, the top reason consumers said they could not repair clothes was that they didn’t have the skills to do it. In regard to convenience, ING said “engagement with more novel circular practices is being held back by the perceived effort required: 41 percent think renting clothes would require a lot more effort, and 36 percent say time is a barrier to repairing devices.”
Lastly, cost remains a critical part of the purchase buying decisions. “Price is still a decisive factor for many consumers when buying clothes, food or electronic devices,” ING noted. “More than half [54 percent] of consumers still choose low-cost fast-fashion items over more expensive, more durable ones. And, after quality and freshness, pricing comparable to that of mass-produced food would be most likely to motivate consumers to opt for locally sourced and produced food.”