Just-released global public opinion research shows that people all around the world are willing to adopt more sustainable and healthy behaviours, but they do not know where to start. The 27-country study was conducted in June 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, 27,000 people took part in the global study that asked them about attitudes, opinions, and behaviors linked to more sustainable and healthier lifestyles.
The 2020 study was designed with a range of partners including CVS Health, GlobeScan, IKEA, PepsiCo, Visa, and WWF International to help organizations better understand the mindsets of people globally and what enables them or prevents them from living in a healthier and more sustainable way. Key findings include:
- The top four “very serious” global problems mentioned are: coronavirus/COVID-19 (68%), the spread of human diseases (62%), climate change (60%), and the depletion of natural resources (60%).
- People are put off by actions they believe are difficult. When trying to be healthier and more sustainable, people across the world are more likely to alter aspects of their life if they perceive it to be easy to do so.
- Affordability is also important when encouraging the uptake of healthy and sustainable behaviors. The number one action that people want companies to take to enable sustainable living is to make more affordable products and services that are better for both people and the environment (50%).
- While health is understandably a priority for people across the world, the environment also remains top of mind. 74 percent want to reduce their impact on the environment and nature by a large amount.
- People are willing to do their bit to improve their own lives, the lives of others, and the environment, but there is currently a gap between aspiration and actual behavior. 61 percent want to change their lifestyles and 31 percent say they have made major changes to be live more healthily.
- Younger generations are consistently more eager to make a significant effort to become healthier, more environmentally friendly, and more helpful to others. As many as seven in ten Gen Z respondents (70%) and two-thirds of Millennials (66%) say they want to become healthier.
- The behaviors that people are most interested in doing more of next year include: taking care of financial health and wellbeing (80%), saving energy at home (80%), reducing food waste (78%), taking care of mental health (78%), spending time with family and friends (78%), and eating healthy and nutritious food (78%).
When asked what companies could do to help them live healthily and sustainably, people most desire more affordable products and services. Reinforcing the importance of price, taking care of personal financial health is the top action people would like to do more of in the coming year. With changes to income and financial stability in the wake of the pandemic, it is likely that the priority placed on affordability has intensified.
Findings from the study also show that people are put off by actions they believe are difficult. When trying to be healthier and more sustainable, they are most likely to alter aspects of their life if they perceive it to be relatively easy to do so. Typically, these behaviors link to improving personal wellbeing, ethical purchasing, and actions within the household (such as saving water at home, eating healthy food, choosing products with less packaging, and buying from responsible brands). When encouraging behavior change, evidence from this study identifies the importance of removing barriers and providing clear information.
People are willing to do their bit to improve their own lives, the lives of others, and the environment, but there is currently a gap between aspiration and actual behavior. Lack of follow-through suggests there is an opportunity for guidance and solutions from key players across the world to enable healthier and more sustainable living.
Eileen Howard Boone, Chief Sustainability Officer at CVS Health said: “Our planet’s health and people’s health are inextricably linked. As a health services company, we’re acutely aware of the need to help people live more sustainable lives, which will in turn lead to living healthier lives. The findings from this study will help us all advance our shared goals.”
Eric Whan, Director at GlobeScan said: “2020 has shocked behavioral habits unlike anything GlobeScan has seen in decades of consumer research worldwide. Suddenly, sustainable consumer behavior encompasses so much more for people than minimizing their environmental footprint. Along with a myriad of challenges, a new world of opportunities has suddenly opened up for leadership organizations.”
Lena Pripp-Kovac, Chief Sustainability Officer at Inter IKEA Group said: “Our ambition is to inspire and enable healthy and sustainable living and to make it affordable for the many people with thin wallets. Sustainable living should not be a luxury for the few. We will use these insights to accelerate our work and make the healthy and sustainable choice more accessible and attractive. It should simply be the default option.”
Douglas Sabo, Chief Sustainability Officer at Visa said: “Consumers around the world are facing the triple threat of crises – a global health crisis, an economic crisis, and an increasingly prevalent and urgent climate crisis. Yet as the survey results show, consumers remain committed to attaining healthy and sustainable lives. Visa is committed to partner with leading brands and to provide insights and solutions that will help consumers and businesses continue to advance the sustainable living movement.”
Cristianne Close, Global Leader, Markets Practice, WWF International said: “WWF’s Living Planet Report 2020 shows that reversing nature loss and tackling climate breakdown requires nothing less than transformation of food production systems and consumption patterns, including reducing food waste and improving our diets. As part of that transformation, this new research from GlobeScan reveals most consumers are ready to make healthy and sustainable choices – as long as they are relatively easy and affordable. As we recover from the global pandemic, brands and retailers have a unique opportunity to help forge a better future and help their customers live healthier, more sustainable lives.”