Irish consumers are taking climate action seriously through sustainable shopping

Almost 7-in-10 people in Ireland purchase sustainable products and the same number view climate change as an “emergency”, according to a new Deloitte report.

Sustainable behaviours continue to be a priority for Irish consumers with nearly half (49%) of consumers in Ireland reporting changing their personal behaviour to take positive action for the climate. 

Furthermore, 64% of consumers purchase sustainable products sometimes or often, according to Deloitte’s latest Global Sustainability Survey.

“Producing sustainable goods is not only the responsible thing to do but it also presents an opportunity for businesses”

The survey asked respondents to self-assess their income group, which showed varying levels of purchasing power. 59% of those who assessed themselves as lower income earners say they purchase sustainable products sometimes or often, rising to 65% for middle-income earners. 

Cost is a problem

However, the cost of sustainable goods is a deterrent and impacts purchasing decisions. Two in five (41%) of those surveyed have not bought sustainable goods in the last four weeks due to the high cost. The analysis shows that this is exacerbated by income levels, with more than half (53%) of those who self-identified as lower income, saying cost is the reason they haven’t purchased sustainable goods in the last four weeks – compared to 37% who self-identified as higher income earners. 

1,000 Irish consumers were surveyed as part of the Global Sustainability Survey, which includes views from more than 20,000 consumers in more than 20 countries. 

“Producing sustainable goods is not only the responsible thing to do but it also presents an opportunity for businesses,” said Glenn Gillard, Head of Sustainability at Deloitte. “This report shows that sustainable actions are being driven by access and opportunity, not attitudes. 

“We can see from the research that cost continues to be a barrier for consumers, and the ability to produce sustainable products in an affordable manner is a key challenge for businesses, given the research, development and production changes required.  

“We know from initiatives like Ireland’s Best Managed Companies that there is a vibrant culture of innovation among Irish businesses, who are well positioned to lead from the front on this. Support at policy level through green incentives will also be crucial to enable that transition. With more regulation in this area expected, companies who adopt these practices early and before they are compelled to, can be leaders in the market.”

Choosing sustainable travel

Sustainable considerations are also impacting choices made by consumers in relation to travel, with 16% stating that they always, or whenever possible, use lower emission transportation and avoid optional or leisure flights.

Gillard noted that while it was positive to see these trends continuing to increase, there is still more to do to incentivise the public to choose sustainable travel.

“Sustainable travel is a crucial element for Ireland to meet its goals under the Climate Action Plan by 2030, but we can see from this research that we still have a long way to go. There are encouraging signs that individuals are thinking about alternatives, but the majority of people still continue to make decisions based on other factors, such as cost. 

“Both education, accessibility and infrastructure, [alongside environmental tax measures outlined in our pre-Budget submission,] are essential if we want to make a meaningful impact in terms of carbon emissions.”

Workplace advocacy 

Consumers are also looking at their employers’ response to climate action. 31% believe their employer is doing enough to address climate change. One in four of lower self-assessed income earners agreed they were, while this rose to 30% with middle income earners and 49% of higher income earners.  

37% of higher-assessed income earners had considered switching to jobs to work for a more sustainable company or a company with less significant environmental impact, compared to 12% of self-assessed low and middle-income earners.

Gillard concluded: “The high number of consumers choosing to buy sustainable goods should encourage leaders in business and government that large numbers of customers, workers, and constituents are prioritising environmental considerations, even in the face of numerous uncertainties.” 

ThinkBusiness, powered by Bank of Ireland, has been created for Irish business owners and managers who are seeking information, resources and help on a range of business topics. It provides practical, actionable information and guidance on starting, growing and running a business.