This week we start with the fourth edition of Deloitte’s sustainable consumer 2023 report. The survey of 2,000 people in the UK showed that almost two in three (62%) consumers blame cost for not adopting a sustainable lifestyle(which is up 10% on last year). However, around a quarter (26%) are prepared to pay more to protect biodiversity, or for more sustainable products and packaging (24%), or for suppliers that respect human rights (25%).
Heightened interest in greenwashing is also having an impact, it seems. Many consumers are making more conscious sustainable purchasing decisions, with 30% saying they have stopped purchasing certain brands or products because of ethical or sustainability-related concerns. Among those that don’t currently adopt sustainable behaviours because they are ‘too expensive’, half would like more information on the products they buy.
There is similar demand in Europe, where a survey of 10,000 European consumers shows the majority (67%) would use an eco-label if there were a universally agreed one available. “It’s clear from our research that consumers want to be better informed about the environmental footprint of their food and that there is widespread support for a universal, independent and factually substantiated label for sustainable food products,” said Klaus Grunert, Professor at Denmark’s Aarhus University, and director of the EIT Food’s new Consumer Observatory.
(The observatory aims to bring together the breadth of consumer insights and knowledge from EIT, “the world’s largest food innovation community”. This includes its ‘trust tracker’, a questionnaire completed by around 20,000 consumers from 18 European countries to measure consumer trust in the food system, confidence in the integrity of their food products, and motivations towards eating a healthy and sustainable diet).
The observatory’s survey showed trust is low when it comes to green claims, with 63% saying food brands “pretend their products are more sustainable than they really are”. The European Commission has in recent months considered a variety of proposals to wipe out misleading environmental claims, including a method to force companies to validate their claims through a ‘product environmental footprint’ – a methodology for calculating the environmental impact of a product over its lifetime.
Under new rules, including the ‘Empowering consumers for the green transition directive’, plans are also afoot to ban terms like carbon neutral. Greenhouse gas emissions were not actually mentioned among the top priorities consumers want to see in a harmonised eco-label, according to EIT’s research. The recyclability of the packaging, animal welfare, pollution, and the use of chemicals and fertilisers were the ones they wanted most to see.
Sticking with Europe, but moving to packaging, brings us to the latest developments in the Packaging and packaging waste directive (the new laws that have fast food chains in a sweat over reusable packaging targets and more single-use packaging bans). MEPs on the ENVI committee this week voted to ban disposable plastic and paper containers for dining in, so that’s all trays, disposable plates, cups, bags and boxes, as well as condiment sachets and pots.
The likes of McDonald’s and the European Paper Packaging Alliance have lobbied hard against the new rules – and there is likely more to come. “There were many challenges from opposing parties, as well as an unprecedented level of corporate lobbying,” said Aline Maigret, head of policy at Zero Waste Europe. “We eagerly anticipate the upcoming plenary vote in November for this crucial environmental bill.”