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Study reveals consumer sentiment toward sustainability, plastic use

A majority of respondents expect grocers and food brands to take the lead.
plastic bottles
A Footprint study found that consumers believe businesses need to do better when it comes to creating plastic waste.

When it comes to creating a sustainable planet, an increasing number of consumers believe retailers and brands should take the lead, according to a new study. In fact, 87% of consumers believe companies are responsible for protecting the planet and its people. 

The study was conducted by Wunderman Thompson Intelligence on behalf of global materials science technology company Footprint, and gauged the attitudes of consumers in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Among respondents, 85% said brands should play a role in solving sustainability issues since they are directly related to the problem, and 78% believe companies and brands aren’t doing enough to make a change. 

Where plastic use is concerned, 72% are dissatisfied with the amount of plastic food packaging they end up with at home and 86% believe supermarkets need to reduce the amount of plastic packaging they use. Further, 62% of respondents said grocers should be directly responsible for reducing plastic waste. 

Both brands and retailers have an opportunity to walk the walk when it comes to sustainability, the study found, with 65% of people being open to choosing a new grocery store that has a commitment to sustainable packaging sans plastic. Consumers are also willing to pay a premium for more sustainable products, with 63% saying they would pay more for products and services that actively help protect the environment. 

“This new study shows that brands taking a leadership role in offering sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics have an enormous opportunity to not only make a difference for our planet, but also influence consumers through sustainable packaging,” said Troy Swope, co-founder and CEO of Gilbert, Ariz.-based Footprint. “Not only do consumers expect companies to lead, now we’ve crossed into new territory where the majority of people surveyed will actually make choices about where they shop and what they buy based on sustainable offerings.” 

Showing an even bigger penchant for sustainable business practices are members of Generation Z and Millennials, who expressed the most anxiety and stress about climate change. Some 68% of Baby Boomers worry about how their current actions will affect future generations, compared with 72% of Generation X, 77% of Millennials and 74% of Generation Z. 

The most common ways people practice sustainability are by recycling at home, staying away from single-use plastics and turning down plastic bags while shopping. A majority of respondents expressed interest in solutions ranging from plastic-free shopping aisles to a sustainable or plastic-free search option when buying groceries online. 

“There’s a genuine opportunity here for brands to help consumers by making sustainable choices more accessible, convenient and straightforward,” said Marie Stafford, global director for Wunderman Thompson Intelligence. “This is not just about doing the right thing; there’s a powerful business case here too. We have found that most people show a marked preference for brands who are demonstrating commitment and taking action on sustainability issues."

This originally appeared on Progressive Grocer.

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