Consumers place onus on manufacturers to drive sustainable change

Posted on 11 Jul 2019 by Jonny Williamson

More than two-thirds (67%) of British consumers say they care more about the environmental impact of the goods they buy today, compared to five years ago, but they mainly feel it's the responsibility of manufacturers and producers to tackle the issue.

The concept of the circular economy was first raised by two British environmental economists, David Pearce and Kerry Turner - image courtesy of Pixabay.
Only one in 10 people (10%) feel it’s their own responsibility to ensure the goods they buy are environmentally-friendly – image courtesy of Pixabay.

That’s according to a pool of more than 2,000 consumers by KPMG. 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 10 believe it’s the retailer’s responsibility (9%) or their own (10%).

“The corporate world has to wake up to the strength of feeling towards sustainability,” according to Dan Thomas, UK head of corporates at KPMG UK.

Pointing to the findings, he commented: “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 10 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.
  • More than three-quarters (76%) of those aged 18 – 24, and 68% of those 55 and over, said they care more about their impact on the plant than they did five years ago.
  • By comparison, only around 63% of those aged 25 – 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.

Bottles Sustainability Factory Manufacturing Stock Image
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, noted: “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.”