NEWS30 August 2022

Consumer fears over climate change rise

News Sustainability Trends

UK – Consumer fears over climate change have escalated over the past year while concerns about water shortages and food shortages are also on the up, according to research from Mintel.

Flooding climate change street_crop

The research by Mintel found the number of global consumers citing climate change as a top three environmental concern has increased from 39% to 46% between 2021 and 2022.

But worries about plastic pollution were down while those polled also are less optimistic about whether immediate environmental action can save the planet.

The 2022 Mintel Consulting Sustainability Barometer found that, along with climate change, concerns over water shortages (up from 27% to 31%) and food shortages (up from 17% to 23%) made the most significant gains in terms of environmental priorities in the past 12 months.

The uptick in worries over water shortages and food shortages comes amid a rise in extreme weather across the world and the war in Ukraine which has led to a global food crisis.

Richard Cope, senior trends consultant at Mintel Consulting, said: “The fact that concerns around climate change and water and food shortages are being prioritised ahead of previous preoccupations with waste and plastic pollution points towards the emergence of a more informed and hardened global consumer.

“Soaring temperatures, extreme weather events and disruptions to food, water and energy supply chains have given consumers a harsh reality check, hurting their health and wallets, and activating them in the process.”

Overall, the research found that climate change, air quality ( 36%) and plastic pollution ( 33%) are global consumers’ top three environmental concerns.

However, concerns about plastic pollution were down slightly from 36% in 2021. The research polled individuals across 16 countries.

Other findings from the research include 58% of global consumers saying extreme weather events in the country where they live encourage them to do more to protect the environment while nearly two in five ( 38%) said they want to demonstrate to other people how they are doing good for the environment.

Mintel also tabled sustainable behaviours of individuals and found that they remain focused on simplicity and frugality: recycling packaging ( 59% in 2022 vs 60% in 2021 ), meal planning to avoid food waste ( 53% vs 52%) and reducing clothes buying ( 50% vs 52%) remain the top global sustainable behaviours.

But the research also reveals that global consumers’ optimism has stalled with 55% believing that if we act now, we still have time to save the planet, compared with 54% who said the same last year.

Amid the findings, Cope has urged companies to candidly communicate the measures they are taking to help the planet, and not “dip their toes into populist plastic-free campaigns”.

He added: “Escalating activism, regulatory reaction and the sheer scale of the challenges ahead and solutions required have educated global consumers enough to sniff out greenwashing campaigns and there’s no going back from that.

“This means companies will increasingly need to assert—and clearly communicate—the truly impactful actions they are taking to reduce emissions, rather than simply offset them or dip their toes into populist ‘plastic free’ campaigns.”