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What does sustainable retailing mean to UK shoppers?

By Sasha Fedorenko September 26, 2019 - 10:30 am

Sustainable retailing is becoming a norm rather a differentiating edge for retail businesses, with 82% of UK shoppers consider ‘environmentally friendly’ labelling within their purchase decisions, says new report by Shoppercentric.

The research polled 1018 UK shoppers to explore the shoppers’ attitudes towards eco-friendly trading – how they define it, look for ‘green’ items and what would encourage them to purchase.

The world is going ‘greener.’ The majority (80%) of the polled UK shoppers consider themselves as being “environmentally friendly.”

The swift of consumer shopping behaviour is dictating new trading model aimed at adopting sustainable ways, raising a question of what does sustainable retailing mean to UK shoppers?

For UK shoppers, sustainability is a word that has multiple meanings and that can describe multiple different shopping behaviours.

For the vast majority (64%) of the respondents, sustainability means – “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future generation.” It’s all about “renewable or recyclable resources” for 46% of shoppers, closely followed with 44% of the respondents stating their belief in “human, social, environmental and economic needs.” It signifies being “environmentally friendly” for 39%, with 35% stating that it means protecting “people, plans and the planet equally” and 31% saying that it referred to “protecting the oceans.” Some 29% say it signifies “preventing climate change.”

There are still barriers which are holding shoppers back, but interestingly these barriers have lessened over time. This most likely reflects both the broader choice of products available and the shift in consumer perceptions, which shows how efforts on the part of manufacturers and retailers can combine with shifts in consumer sentiments to drive real change.

The research suggests that sellers can encourage shoppers to buy loose fruit and vegetables in order to reduce plastic waste, with 29% saying that they always look to make their purchases this way, and 42% of the respondents trying to reduce the use of single plastic in general. Some 43% of UK shoppers want sellers also to use “easy-to-recycle packaging options” and 66% wish that non-recyclable packaging was banned to take the choice of their hands completely.

As environmental commentators have been pointing out, sustainability isn’t just about buying the right things, it’s also about buying less. For shoppers, there’s still a long way to go, but the desire to do the ‘right thing’ is clearly there – however, the difficulty is understanding how shoppers match their desire for change, with actual changes in their behaviour.

It’s clear from our research that shoppers need more help from manufacturers, retailers and the government. They need guidance to see the ‘right’ products in-store, highlighting those that will make a difference and help to differentiate between the options: emotionally rather than rationally.”
– Jamie Rayner, managing director, Shoppercentric.

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