(Bloomberg) — Shoppers have become less concerned about the environment as they battle against a global cost-of-living crisis, research suggests.
The proportion of consumers who are highly concerned about the environment and try hard to cut their waste dropped to 18% in 2022, from 22% a year earlier, according to a survey from data agency Kantar.
Shoppers who have little or no interest in the environment and are taking no steps to reduce waste rose to 44% in 2022, up from 37% a year earlier, according to the survey of almost 100,000 people in 24 countries including the US, Britain and France.
The proportion of shoppers in the middle category, who worry about the environment but take few actions to reduce waste, fell to 38% from 41%.
Consumer giants like Nestle have invested in sustainable production and marketing to attract eco-conscious shoppers and appease investors who consider poor environmental credentials a business risk.
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Unilever Chief Executive Alan Jope has argued that purpose-led and sustainable brands grow sales faster than the rest of his company’s business. But Kantar’s findings, published on Thursday, lend support to critics such as prominent shareholder Terry Smith who accused the Dove-maker in January of fixating on sustainability at the expense of financial performance.
The research suggests that at a time of stretched household budgets, consumer groups might choose to focus on price competitiveness over sustainability. However, Kantar said the most eco-conscious consumers are still worth $376 billion to fast-moving consumer goods giants like Danone and Procter & Gamble.
The war in Ukraine was shoppers’ biggest concern in countries including Britain, Spain and Poland, according to the survey. The conflict has triggered turmoil on commodity markets, pushing up the price of food and energy. Financial constraints due to a global spike in inflation are making it harder for consumers to prioritize sustainability, the research said.