PwC: 6 Ways Firms can Boost Sustainable Offer to Consumers

Consumers are changing their shopping habits thanks to climate pressures, PwC says
PwC’s Voice of the Consumer Survey 2024 tells companies 6 ways to boost sustainability efforts and lift consumers' confidence in their net zero credentials

One of the world’s leading sustainability consultancies has shone a spotlight on the effect of climate change on the behaviour of product consumers and how businesses can leverage their findings to rebuild trust and gain insights into the latest trends.

PwC’s Voice of the Consumer Survey 2024 looked into different ways companies can strengthen the confidence consumers have in them. It identified six key imperatives, one of which is that enterprises should create and promote a product portfolio that reflects consumers’ desires for wellness, nutrition and more sustainable food production.

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This comes after 85% of the survey’s respondents reported experiencing the disruptive effects of climate change in their daily lives. Just below half said they are buying more sustainable products as a way to reduce their personal impact on the environment.

Why is the environment an important factor in purchasing decisions?

As part of its analysis, PwC questioned the actions or behaviours consumers have actively taken to reduce their climate change impact. Almost half said they are buying products with a reduce climate impact or those that are more sustainable — including products with recycled materials, natural products, second-hand products and fewer plastics. 

The next most popular course of action was making more considered purchases, with 43% stating they approach their consumerism this way. Changes in diet and travel followed, with supporting ‘green’ politicians and policies, EVs and reducing online purchasing also active considerations of respondents. 

One of the report’s authors, PwC Partner in Canada and Global Consumer Markets Advisory Leader Myles Gooding, said on LinkedIn following its publication: “I’m proud to share our inaugural  Voice of Consumer survey 2024, which reveals the importance customers place on trust in the products and services they use, particularly in this age of digital technology.”

Myles Gooding, PwC Partner in Canada and Global Consumer Markets Advisory Leader

Co-author Kelly Pedersen, Principal with PwC US, said: “Did you know that despite all the attention that online shopping gets, physical stores still outperform them? That’s just one finding from our inaugural Voice of Consumer survey 2024.”

Kelly Pedersen, Partner at PwC

Other findings include that consumers are willing to pay 9.7% above average price for sustainably produced or sourced goods and a little over one in five plan to reduce their red meat consumption in line with the growing interest in plant-based diets.

What does this mean for sustainability?

The report calls for producers and retailers to innovate to meet the dual challenge of feeding a growing global population and reducing the ecological footprint of food production.

It says that by leveraging consumer willingness to pay for sustainable products, companies can build competitive advantage through clear sustainability communication and packaging. This can also be done by offering incentives like independent sustainability scores and discounts on near-expiry foods, as it builds on consumers’ willingness to be more sustainable.

"For companies, there is a real focus on operational challenges and minimising impacts on product pricing,” said David Chavern, President and CEO of the Consumer Brands Association. “Ultimately, climate risk will be priced into inputs and processes and the necessary next question will be how to also deliver the right price to the consumer.”

David Chavern, President and CEO of the Consumer Brands Association

When it comes more specifically to food products, the report suggests that the ambition to adopt healthier and more sustainable diets cannot rest on consumers alone, encouraging producers and retailers to also step up and play their part. 

With global population numbers expected to surge to 9.7 billion by 2050, it says producers must align the need to feed a growing population with the urgent need to reduce food production’s ecological footprint.

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