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Have Baby Boomers’ attitudes towards sustainability been misinterpreted?

Dr Nick Baker Chief Research Officer 21/10/2021

Following on from last year’s inaugural survey, our latest Eco Index - with over 6,000 respondents - explores opinions on environmental issues in the UK, US and Canada.

According to our new research, the majority (52% - US, 51% - Canada, 50% - UK) of Gen Z would want to encourage loved ones to change their ways by confronting them.
Yet apart from in Canada (51%), Baby Boomers are significantly less likely to do this, with only 44% in the US and 40% in the UK claiming they would speak up.
Just because older generations may be less vocal about sustainability though, does that mean, as some have suggested, they don’t care as much?
No – we believe their attitudes have been misinterpreted.

Those with a higher income or social grade, ABC1, are more likely to be concerned about the environment

Asked how interested they are to stay informed of what’s happening with the environment, in the UK and Canada it’s Baby Boomers who come out on top.

In Canada, 67% of Baby Boomers are interested, significantly higher than Gen Z at 60%. In the UK it’s 63% and 57% respectively.

In the US there is less difference – 53% and 51% respectively, but interestingly, both Millennials (63%) and Gen X (60%) are significantly more likely to be interested than both Gen Z and Baby Boomers:

Public concern for environmental issues

Similar patterns emerged when we asked the public how concerned they are about environmental issues. In Canada (66%) and the UK (65%), Baby Boomers were the most concerned generation overall, while once again it’s Millennials in the US (63%):

We recently explored how 25-34 year olds in the US, essentially Millennials, are the most confident about their financial situation following Covid-19 and the economic crisis.

Moreover, similar to last year’s survey, those with a higher income or social grade, ABC1, are more likely to be concerned about the environment. Naturally, those struggling to pay rent – or feed their family – may feel sustainability is less of a priority.

However, in all three countries, Baby Boomers (77% – Canada, 74% – UK, 63% – US) are more likely than Gen Z (72% – Canada, 66% – UK, 62% – US) to say they care about what is happening to the environment on a global scale.

This difference is more significant when comparing those who care ‘a lot’ – and by this metric, no generation cares more about the environment globally than Baby Boomers:

In fact, Baby Boomers are even more likely to say they care about the environment in their local area as well – and also, significantly more likely than Gen Z.

Overall, it’s too simplistic to generalise that one generation is more concerned about environmental issues than the other. It’s much more nuanced than that.

With the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 taking place November in Glasgow, it wraps up another big year for environmental politics.

Leaders including Joe Biden, Justin Trudeau and Boris Johnson – wanting to win national and cross-generational support for their green policies – must continue to aim for common goals, which people of all ages can get behind.

To learn more about how brands can better communicate with Baby Boomers – as well as other generations – on sustainability, click here to download the UK version of our Eco Index 2021 report and here to access the Americas version.

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