January 10, 2020

Did we just Dream of a Green Christmas

Sustainability is high on everyone’s agenda right now, with businesses, governments and consumers increasingly aware of the need to make significant changes that will, we hope, reduce our collective impact on the environment.  In particular, there is plenty of evidence that suggests consumer attitudes and beliefs are changing for the better. But, changing attitudes is one thing – creating long term behaviour change is quite another, especially when there are so many pressures in consumers’ daily lives that make potentially effortful change a lofty ambition, at best, for many.

So, just before Christmas 2019, we set out to test the resolve of shoppers at a time when daily life pressures increase tenfold for many, and when the temptation to over-indulge, and to throw caution to the wind is second to none! There is an interesting juxtaposition, we believed, between the beginnings of a behavioural shift towards a more sustainable and simple approach to consumerism vs. the more extravagant approach that characterises the Festive Period:

  • Would green give way to greed at Christmas time?
  • Would the pervading emphasis on “acquisition in bucket-loads” provide permission to throw caution to the wind, or would it make shoppers think twice about the possible impact of their actions?
  • Would relatively newly formed ‘green’ attitudes and beliefs survive the temptation to revert to long standing behavioural traditions and habits that are easier, and often more emotionally rewarding to adhere to?

To find out, we conducted a qualitative, online bulletin board with 20 self-proclaimed environmentally aware shoppers over a couple of weeks as they prepared for Christmas.  In addition, we conducted a short survey amongst 1,000 nationally representative adults between 20th and 22nd December 2019… and the results were fascinating, providing food for thought for how brand owners and retailers should look to support shoppers in their quest to be green, not only at Christmastime, but at other times of year:

  • Whilst 88 per cent of the population claimed that thoughts of sustainability impacted their Christmas purchasing decisions, only 26 per cent said it had a significant impact
    - The perceived cost of shopping sustainably (both in monetary and effort terms) proved a barrier for many to take more         significant action
    - And, the emotional attachment to the traditions of Christmas was too much to sacrifice for others
  • But, the excesses of Christmas certainly made people think more carefully about their shopping with 49 per cent saying that these very excesses “made me think more about environmental / sustainability issues than I usually do”, rising to 63 per cent of 18-34 year olds.
  • So, we saw an emerging trend of ‘buying better, buying less’, as well as a return to more considered and thoughtful gifting
  • Gifting itself, however, became harder for many who struggled to find gifts that would satisfy their own need to buy sustainably as well as being ‘loved’ by their recipients.  Indeed, finding anything sustainable proved hard for many who hadn’t yet ventured beyond mainstream high street retailers

If you would like a copy of the full report that goes into more detail on these and other insights – please don’t hesitate to drop me a line or fill in the contact sheet on the website.

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