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The cost of living: How have people changed their choices related to sustainability?

Our latest Sustainability Segmentation 2022 report reveals that a third of Americans forgo sustainable purchases due to their shrinking spending power.

Sadia Corey VP, Client Development 06/12/2022

Americans consider the soaring cost of living the most important issue facing the country, according to a new study of 5,006 US adults.

More than half of Gen Z consumers are concerned about sustainability, but are unlikely to take action and consider sustainability when making purchase decisions.

Among the key findings include: 

Americans are apathetic about the environment when compared to other countries

The report, which also includes the U.K. and Canada, shows that people in the U.S. are less concerned with the climate crisis overall. All three countries ranked an increasing cost of living as their top concern. Adults in the U.K. and Canada ranked climate change as a top three concern. U.S. adults cited the cost of living, crime & policing, and economic growth as their top issues – the risks of climate change did not make the top three.

Cost and convenience are top priorities across the board, for any purchase

Nearly half (48%) of the respondents say they find it difficult to save consistently, if at all.

Accordingly, Americans are pinching pennies, indicating that price is a key factor in purchasing decisions, more so than sustainability. The report looked at intentions and actions across grocery shopping and food consumption, lifestyle, home energy usage, travel habits, and finance. Within each sector, sustainable choices rank low – i.e. only 24% are focused on purchasing from ethical companies committed to making a positive social impact.

Climate change is a top three concern for Gen Z, but cost of living remains #1

Like everyone else, 18-24s see the cost-of-living crisis as the biggest challenge today (32%). More than half (53%) are concerned about sustainability, but are unlikely to take action and consider sustainability when making purchase decisions – yet.

While it’s widely reported Gen Z are willing to spend more on sustainable products, it’s also true that, like other age groups, value for money remains their top criterion. Gen-Z is the most likely age group to read books, watch documentaries or listen to podcasts about sustainability.

In some ways—for example, politically—Gen Z are the most active at promoting sustainability and pushing it up the agenda. The 18-24s are also more likely to have boycotted a brand or product (22%)—which serves as a stark warning for any companies with unsustainable practices.

Savanta’s Sustainability Segmentation 2022

“Each year, the dramatic effects of climate change become more evident, yet consumer spending habits are slow to acknowledge the growing threats. In order to understand this disparity, we must look at consumer behaviors holistically,” says Nikki Lavoie.

The report segments consumers into seven groups, based around the well-publicized ‘say-do’ gap and plotting consumers’ intentions to behave more sustainably against the real-world steps they have taken to date. Overlaying this analysis with socio-political values and personality traits creates a holistic view of the various capabilities, motivations, and opportunities of different consumers.

Download the free report here.

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