As consumers across the world have adapted behaviours during the COVID-19 pandemic, they have become less concerned by the environmental impact of their choices regarding the products and services they buy or use.
This is one of the key findings of a survey launched today by the World Economic Forum and Ipsos, which was carried out across 29 countries between September and October 2021.
Fall in numbers modifying behaviour
On average, over half (56%) of the 23,055 adults interviewed said they have modified their consumer behaviour out of concern about climate change over the past few years. This is down from an average of 69% in January 2020, when an identical question was asked in all but two of the same 29 countries.
Even in countries where consumers are still relatively likely to report having adapted their behaviour to counteract climate change, the proportion of environmentally conscious consumers seems to have fallen significantly since the last survey. They include India (76%, down 12 percentage points), Mexico (74%, -12pts), Chile (73%, -13pts) and China (72%, -13pts).
Countries experiencing the biggest decline since 2020 in their share of environmentally conscientious consumers include Malaysia (62%, -23pts), Spain (53%, -23pts), Poland (49%, -23pts) and France (52%, -21pts).
The countries where consumers are least likely to say they have modified their behaviour due to climate concerns include Japan (22%, -9pts), Russia (40%, -12pts), the United States (41%, -15pts), and the Netherlands (41%, -16pts).
Actions most commonly taken
Globally, the individual actions most commonly taken to counteract climate change are recycling or composting (cited by an average of 46% of respondents), generally saving energy at home (43%), avoiding throwing away food (41%) and saving water at home (41%).
Women are generally more likely than men to report changing their behaviour because of climate concerns, especially in terms of avoiding throwing away food (46% vs 36%, respectively on average across all countries), saving water at home (46% vs 36%), buying fewer new things (36% vs 26%) and avoiding products that have a lot of packaging (33% vs 25%).
To find out whether consumers feel they are more or less engaged than others in their community, survey respondents were also asked about their neighbours’ behaviour. On average globally, three in 10 (30%) say their neighbours have made at least some changes, a third (34%) say their neighbours have not made any changes, and nearer two in five (37%) say they are not sure.
The results suggest that Latin American and Hungarian consumers tend to think others are considerably less engaged than they are. In most other countries, large proportions indicated they were unsure about their neighbours’ habits.