A global Alibaba study revealed that 73% of (surveyed) consumers want to live more sustainable lifestyles, particularly among those living in emerging Asian markets (87%), but inconvenience and high costs are cited as the main stumbling blocks to the adoption of sustainable lifestyles.
The commissioned research, “The Sustainability Trends Report 2023”, polled more than 14,000 consumers from 14 markets across Asia, Europe and the Middle East. It found that convenience (53%) and affordability (33%) are critical for driving behavioural changes on consumer sustainability and businesses can make it easier for consumers to make sustainably conscious choices.
But consumers are cynical (38%) towards the underlying motivation of businesses’ "sustainable" products, with only 15% saying that they completely trust claims around the sustainability of products. Businesses need to work harder to build trust among those consumers, especially among people living in European markets.
“As a digital platform company, Alibaba is uniquely positioned and committed to addressing the ‘say-do’ gap challenge; by reducing the inconvenience obstacle, adding more sustainable choices, and optimizing supply chains to keep costs reasonable for consumers. Sustainable consumption is crucial for the environment, and in the meantime, it provides a great opportunity for businesses, as well as the digital economy, to have a long-lasting development into a sustainable future for all,” said Liu Wei, Alibaba Group ESG strategy lead.
What the study reveals
Consumers globally are embracing more sustainable lifestyles, but there are variations across regions in the level of engagement and how they want to live and shop more sustainably.
The research notes that 76% would welcome more information about how to be more sustainable. The proportion is highest in the Philippines (93%), Indonesia (91%), and UAE (90%).
About 58% of consumers say they’ve already engaged with sustainable practices, and they feel they are already personally doing a great deal. There’s also a general openness towards learning about sustainable online practices, with an average of 73% saying that they would welcome more information about how to make purchases online that are more sustainable.
Respondents from emerging Asian markets (88%) show a higher willingness to learn how they can make purchases online that are more sustainable compared with developed Asian markets (66%) and Europe (66%).
Sustainable online shopping behaviours also differ across regions, with emerging Asian markets (47%) more inclined to choose sustainable packaging whereas those in Europe (47%) tend to recycle more.
Convenience trumps sustainable interests
Half of the consumers would only go sustainable if it’s convenient; with a third believing sustainability is not affordable
Lack of information on how products are sustainable (48%) and the prices of sustainable products being too high (45%) are cited as the main barriers for consumers to make more sustainable purchases.
About 53% of consumers surveyed say they would only make sustainable choices if they were convenient, which is especially the case in Asian markets (61%) compared to European markets (36%). A third (33%) say living sustainably is not affordable, with Thailand (84%) leading the pack, followed by UAE (41%) and Spain (37%).
Amid the shifting consumer sentiments, businesses can play a significant role in making it easier for consumers to make sustainable conscious choices, the report finds. Making sustainable products more affordable (61%), making fewer products using single-use plastics and packaging (55%) and a wider selection of sustainable products and services (47%) are the top three ways consumers say businesses can do to promote consumer sustainability.
Businesses need to work harder to build trust among consumers on their sustainability claims. Up to 38% are cynical towards the underlying motivations of businesses’ sustainable products, with Thailand (56%), France (48%) and Singapore (47%) as the top three markets where consumers say sustainable products are just a way for companies to sell their products at a higher price.
"We believe companies can better earn trust from consumers by addressing their own ‘say-do’ gap, such as being more transparent and committed with their sustainability claims and backing their sustainable practices with data. This will also lead to greater empathy towards consumers along our common journey of sustainability,” Liu Wei added.