Consumers look to manufacturers to make consumption sustainable

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53% of UK consumers think producers and manufacturers are responsible for ensuring the goods they buy are environmentally-friendly.

KPMG research finds that over two-thirds (67%) of Brits say they care more about the environmental impact of the consumer goods they buy today, compared to 5 years ago, but they mainly feel it is the responsibility of manufacturers and producers to tackle the issue.

In the poll of over 2,000 consumers, when asked who they feel should be most responsible for ensuring the goods they buy are environmentally-friendly, over half (53%) of respondents said the companies producing or manufacturing products. Only 15% of respondents point to policymakers and only one in ten think it is the retailer’s responsibility (9%) or their own (10%).

Commenting on the findings, Dan Thomas, UK head of corporates at KPMG UK, said: “The corporate world has to wake up to the strength of feeling towards sustainability. Our research pinpoints exactly where consumers feel the responsibility lies to tackle the Goliath task of making consumption environmentally sustainable, and it’s with the product producers.

“The fact that only one in ten consumers believe it is down to themselves to change the impact of their consumption, demonstrates the scale of the challenge for producers and manufacturers. Simply having an environmentally-friendly offering is not enough, sustainability needs to be embedded across everything a firm does, so there isn’t a ‘wrong choice’ for a consumer to make. Consumers will continue to demand the same products and the same quality, but with minimal impact on our planet. It is a huge ask, but one that must be met if businesses are to remain relevant in the years to come.”

The youngest and oldest generations are notably more engaged in the fight to make consumer goods more environmentally-friendly. Over three-quarters (76%) of those aged 18 to 24, and 68% of those 55 and over, said they care more about their impact on the planet than they did 5 years ago. By comparison, only around 63% of those aged 25 to 54 said the same. On the whole, respondents say that they would be willing to pay an average of 8.5% more for environmentally-friendly consumer goods.

Linda Ellett, UK head of consumer markets at KPMG, added: “The lion’s share of attention where sustainable consumption is concerned has been placed on both the consumer and retailers, with consumers urged to recycle more as well as make more environmentally-friendly choices. Meanwhile, retailers are under continued pressure to think of and invest in innovative ways to tackle the issue. Manufacturers and producers are one step removed from the end consumer so those doing a great job may have had their efforts somewhat overlooked.

“It’s clear now that the pressure on all businesses to think more carefully about sustainability will only grow, especially as younger generations become more dominant consumers. There is a vital need to move beyond ‘thinking’ and token gestures, with hard action and results now required. Thankfully, most consumers aren’t under the illusion that this will come without cost, though no doubt those who can make these changes without hitting prices too hard will stand out as the winning businesses of the future.”