US Consumers Are Becoming Less Sustainability-Minded

Indoor green plant and eco-friendly paper tableware with recycling signs. The concept of zero waste and conservation of nature.
U.S. consumers are becoming less sustainability-minded.
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U.S. consumers are less sustainably minded than they were a year ago, according to a Global Voices survey from ESW. Scoring just 49 this year versus 51 in 2023, the U.S. also performs below the global mean, which is 55.

The report also reveals that some emerging markets are more concerned about sustainability than their counterparts in more economically mature markets. India (75), the United Arab Emirates (74), China (70) and Mexico (67) topped the list, with Japan (32), Germany (46), UK (46), Switzerland (48) and Canada (48) all coming in with the lowest sustainability scores.

The sustainability sentiment score represents the percentage of respondents that “agree” or “strongly agree” with 14 of the sustainability sentiments, including, “I am trying to be more sustainable in my day-to-day life,” “I have stopped buying from certain brands and retailers because of their poor environmental record,” and “I try to buy/shop more sustainably, but will not spend more for more eco-friendly products.”

Related: Balancing Spa Sustainability and the Luxury Experience

In general, younger people were more concerned with sustainability than older generations. Global average sustainability scores by generation showed Gen Z (61) and Millennials (60) significantly ahead of Gen X (53) and Boomers (49).

Within the U.S., Millennials score highest compared to other generations, yet also declined compared to last year. Millennials scored 59 on the sustainability index, (compared to 62 last year) but still rank higher this year than Gen Z (57), Gen X (50), and Baby Boomers (35).

Globally, more than half of the consumers surveyed (55%) said they are more aware of greenwashing now than a year ago and 27% said they considered a brand’s environmental transparency record when making a purchase, per the report.

Luxury shoppers are 1.5x more likely to be sustainably attuned shoppers. Shoppers who value brand authenticity are 50% more likely to be environmentally attuned shoppers. Globally 63% of shoppers said that they value brand authenticity and want brands to be truthful and transparent about company environmental credentials.

Value brand shoppers are also more likely to be sustainably minded shoppers with a sustainability score of 62 compared to 47 for non-brand name shoppers. 32% of brand name shoppers are likely to be environmentally attuned shoppers. Brand name shoppers believe that a brand name means higher quality and better value.

The report found that 31% of consumers consider sustainable packaging options when shopping online, while 30% consider sustainable shipping options and 29% value less packaging overall.

“We were surprised to discover that the degree to which consumers are concerned about sustainability, as well as what they value from the brands they patronize, depends largely upon where they live,” said Martim Avillez Oliveira, chief revenue officer, ESW. “The data suggests that while US consumers have been encouraged to make environmentally responsible choices for years, perhaps the intensity of that messaging, along with the increasing strain that inflation places on households, may have consumers at a tipping point.”

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