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How concerns about the environment are changing consumer behaviour

Concerns about the environment at an all-time high and it is being pushed even further up the news agenda right now with the current UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26). 

According to recent research from Toluna on people’s concerns about the state of the world and how they can help, environmental issues are the biggest concern, with 61% of those surveyed stating that they’re most worried about the future of the planet. This is followed by poverty (49%), human rights (42%), and equality and diversity (41%).

Key findings

Green habits

Given people’s concerns around the environment, when asked how they’d help to make the world a cleaner, greener place, the following behaviours were highlighted:

  • 72% of people said they recycle as much as they can.
  • 70% of those surveyed said they focus on reducing food waste as much as possible.
  • 57% sell, re-use, repurpose or donate unwanted clothes.
  • 33% buy fair trade or ethically sourced items.

Brand and shopping choices

  • 87% of respondents believe brands should be held accountable for their actions to consumers, with over half feeling strongly about this.
  • 73% of those surveyed said they often or sometimes go out of their way to engage and buy from brands that are closely aligned to their personal values, such as being more socially and environmentally responsible. 40% have actually stopped using brands that don’t align with their values.
  • 52% of people said they think about whether the brand they’re buying products or services from supports the ethical issues they feel strongly about.
  • Nearly half (49%) of respondents would switch to brands that are more aligned to their ethical values.
  • 46% said brands should be doing a lot better when it comes to being environmentally responsible.
  • 25% said that environmental issues were their number one reason for choosing a service or product from a brand.

Who is most accountable?

  • An overwhelming 70% of those surveyed said the responsibility was down to the government.
  • 61% said brands and manufacturers must take the lead in being more responsible.
  • 60% of respondents said driving change is down to each individual who must change their day-to-day behaviour to help create a more sustainable, environmentally responsible way of life.
  • 59% of people believe supermarkets and retailers must lead by example to encourage behavioural change.
  • Food and drink companies (41%), travel companies (36%), and energy suppliers (36%) were the top three businesses that people felt could do a lot more to support their ethical values.

It’s evident that climate change is a real issue and cause for real concern amongst consumers. The research shows that consumers recognise they are responsible for driving change in this area - but they’ve also made it clear that brands, manufacturers, and retailers must also do more and lead by example. With the UK Environment Bill high on the agenda at COP26, the UK public feels strongly about creating a better world to fight climate change and protect the environment. It’s clear that they want businesses and brands to do better, act more ethically, and put sustainability at the heart of their ethos.


Toluna’s Global Consumer Barometer Study is a regular index that taps into a panel of 36+ million members to provide accurate and timely information on the world’s current perceptions. The latest research surveyed 1,023 people in the UK.

Written by Lucia Juliano, research sector head at Toluna

For more information on COP 26, read this blog here

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