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Greater Green Appetites: UK consumers less concerned about the environment

Greater Green Appetites: UK consumers less concerned about the environment than Emerging Market consumers

      o Emerging markets show a greater interest in sustainable business and green behaviour
      o European consumers are most resistant to paying eco-premiums on products or services
      o The use of reusable plastic bags viewed as a critical sector for the environment
      o Global consumers in agreement that buying energy efficient electronic goods would help minimise their environmental impact
      o Consumers not prepared to change holiday preferences to minimise environmental impact

Consumers in emerging markets appear to care more about the environment compared to those in the UK and many other developed countries, according to a report from global insurer, RSA. Measuring attitudes towards sustainable business and green behaviour, RSA’s Green Appetites Report, surveyed consumers across nine global markets about their concerns and habits, finding emerging countries, Chile, China and United Arab Emirates, were much more willing to pay a 10% premium for more environmentally friendly products or services.

UK consumers showed they were most willing to pay a 1-5% eco-premium. This was echoed across other consumers in Western countries, including Canada, France, Germany, Denmark and Sweden, who were generally only willing to pay a 1-5% premium for a greener product or service, if at all. In contrast, 45% of Chinese respondents were willing to pay a 5 – 10% premium; 30% willing to pay 1 – 5% premium; and 15% over a 10% premium.

Issues important to consumers and their businesses
China, followed by France and Canada, had the highest percentage of consumers who believed that buying reusable shopping bags was the most important environmental issue by sector. In contrast, respondents in Chile, Denmark and the United Arab Emirates agreed that the white or brown goods sector was the most important sector. 65% of Swedish residents identified the food retail sector as their main concern. [ii]


Ethical or green clothing retail was identified by the majority of European respondents as the least important sector for the environment (France – 39%; Germany – 37%; UK – 36%; Sweden – 27%). Other markets identified the tourism sector as the least impactful sector (UAE – 71%; Chile – 63%; China – 61%; Canada – 38%; Denmark – 34%).

Consumer Purchasing Behaviour
Across all nine countries, respondents indicated they were most likely to buy energy efficient electronic goods in order to minimise the impact they have on the environment (China – 84%; Denmark – 77%; Canada – 76%; Germany – 75%; UK – 74%; UAE – 74%; France – 72%; Sweden – 68%; Chile – 60%).

Across most countries (Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, France, Sweden, UAE, UK), respondents said they were least likely to choose eco-holidays, including not flying or carbon offsetting travel, in order to minimise the impact they have on the environment. However German respondents indicated that choosing financial services which reward ethical or green behaviour was their least likely action when trying to minimise the impact they have on the environment. While there was a diverse response by global consumers to the role of financial services and improving environmental impact, emerging market countries responded more positively towards the sector’s efforts. [iii]

Commenting on the report, Dr Paul Pritchard, UK Head of Corporate Responsibility at RSA, said: “RSA’s Green Appetites Report highlights consumers enduring interest in the environment despite the current downturn. It demonstrates very clearly that, while there subtle differences, these concerns are important to consumers across many countries.

“It was also fascinating to see the issue of reusables feature so prominently. While some commentators might want to focus attention on ‘big’ issues such as energy or transport, it’s clear that campaigns with clear well explained goals, allowing consumers to get involved, can be engaging and successful. The challenge for forward looking business such as RSA is to try and help customers meet these aspirations in ways that can maintain or even improve product quality and service standards.”