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Prices and product confusion barriers to sustainability, survey finds

Other than cost, EY said quality of information and trust in brands are also ‘significant barriers’

UK consumers’ interest in sustainable products has risen significantly but barriers such as high prices, confusion around product quality, and lack of trust in sustainability credentials are stopping them from making purchases, according to a new survey from EY.

It comes as the latest EY Future Consumer Index found that more than a quarter of consumers (28%) have said they have increased their purchase of sustainable products over the course of the pandemic and a third (34%) plan to increase this after the pandemic.

However, the survey of over 1,000 UK consumers found that more than two-thirds (67%) of respondents said that high prices were a “definite deterrent” to purchasing sustainable products, with more than a third (35%) wish that they could afford to do more.

Other than cost, EY said quality of information and trust in brands are also “significant barriers”. The majority (56%) cited misleading product information as putting them off buying, and more than half (51%) “lack trust” in brands and retailers to help them make sustainable purchasing choices.

Over three-fifths (64%) of respondents also perceived sustainable options to be of poorer quality. In addition, 37% said that understanding how to make more sustainable choices is “too difficult or time-consuming”.

Silvia Rindone, EY UK&I Retail lead, said: “Our report shows that people want to do their bit to tackle sustainability challenges, but they don’t yet have the right information to turn those desires into action. There is a clear prize to be won if brands and retailers can communicate with clarity, authenticity and consistency.

“A number of retailers and consumer goods companies have been proactive and are leading in shaping the agenda around the future of sustainability. However, greater coordination across the industry is needed to align on standards that ultimately will make it easier for consumers to make more informed choices.”

The EY report also found that consumer expectations around sustainability “vary significantly” by age and product category or sector. Those under the age of 40 had human rights in their top three concerns, prioritising it nearly twice as much as their older peers, sitting alongside climate change and plastic waste as their top concerns.

Rindone added: “To close the trust gap, retailers and brands need to prove that sustainability is about action rather than words. For real change when it comes to helping consumers make environmentally savvy purchasing decisions, companies need to create an Environmental Social Governance (ESG) agenda that is anchored in the strategy of the business and not an add-on.

“They must integrate a new strategy into their ways of working, not just a one-and-done project but a way of defining the purpose of their business. Companies should clarify what their target consumer wants in terms of sustainability and clearly communicate what is relevant to them, remembering that priorities can differ by age and sector.”

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