Market ResearchNewsSustainability

Seven in Ten Consumers Are Willing to Make Changes to Tackle Environmental Issues

A vast majority (73%) of consumers want to live more sustainable lifestyles, particularly among those living in emerging Asian markets (87%), but inconvenience and high costs are cited as main stumbling blocks to the adoption of sustainable lifestyles, finds the latest independent research commissioned by Alibaba Group.

The research, titled “The Sustainability Trends Report 2023”, polled more than 14,000 consumers from 14 markets across Asia, Europe and the Middle East. It finds that convenience (53%) and affordability (33%) are critical for driving behavioural changes in 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 as a whole, to have a long-lasting development into a sustainable future for all,” said Liu Wei, Alibaba Group ESG Strategy Lead.

Alibaba published its latest Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Report in late July where for the first time it disclosed its Scope 3+ decarbonization progress since it pioneered the concept in 2021 for a wider pledge of carbon emission reduction across its ecosystem.

Alibaba’s carbon ledger platform has seen a total number of 187 million consumers participating in carbon emission reduction activities in the 12 months leading to March 31, 2023, with 1.91 million products from 409 brands offered on Tmall and Taobao through its low-carbon friendly products program as of March 2023, its latest ESG report revealed.

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 finds around three in four consumers (76%) would welcome more information about how to be more sustainable. The proportion is highest in the Philippines (93%), Indonesia (91%), and UAE (90%).

Over half (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.

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. Over half of the consumers (53%) 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.

But businesses need to work harder to build trust among consumers on their sustainability claims, especially among those living in European markets, said the research. 23% of consumers say they “do not trust very much” the claims around the sustainability of products from businesses, with the highest proportion in France (31%), Spain (31%) Germany (30%) and the U.K. (30%).

Nearly two in five consumers (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.

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