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7 in 10 Consumers Willing to Make Changes to Tackle Environmental Issues

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The majority (73%) of consumers, particularly those in emerging Asian markets (87%), want to live more sustainable lifestyles but inconvenience and high costs are keeping them from pursuing this goal. These are the findings of the latest independent research commissioned by Alibaba Group titled “The Sustainability Trends Report 2023,” which polled more than 14,000 consumers from 14 markets across Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

The study finds that convenience (53%) and affordability (33%) are critical for driving behavioral changes on consumer sustainability, and businesses can make it easier for consumers to make sustainably conscious choices. Consumers, however, are cynical (38%) about the underlying motivation of businesses’ “sustainable” products, with only 15 percent of them saying they completely trust claims around sustainability of products. Businesses need to work harder to build trust among consumers, in particular those living in European markets.

“As a digital platform company, Alibaba is uniquely positioned and committed to addressing the ‘say-do’ gap challenge by reducing the inconvenience obstacle, adding more sustainable choices and optimizing supply chains to keep costs reasonable for consumers. Sustainable consumption is crucial for the environment, and at the same time it provides a great opportunity for businesses and the digital economy as a whole to have a long-lasting development into a sustainable future for all,” said Liu Wei, Alibaba Group ESG strategy lead.

Alibaba published its latest Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Report in late July where for the first time it disclosed its Scope 3+ decarbonization progress since it pioneered the concept in 2021 for a wider pledge of carbon emission reduction across its ecosystem.

Alibaba’s carbon ledger platform has seen a total of 187 million consumers participating in carbon emission reduction activities in the 12 months leading to March 31, 2023, with 1.91 million products from 409 brands offered on Tmall and Taobao through Alibaba’s low-carbon friendly products program as of March 2023, its latest ESG report revealed.

Emerging Asian market consumers seek more sustainable purchases online

Consumers globally are embracing more sustainable lifestyles, but there are variations across regions in the level of engagement and how they want to live and shop more sustainably.

The research finds about three in four consumers (76%) would welcome more information about how to be more sustainable. The proportion is highest in the Philippines (93%), Indonesia (91%) and the UAE (90%).

More than half (58%) of consumers say they have already engaged with sustainable practices and they feel they are already personally doing a great deal. There is also a general openness toward learning about sustainable online practices, with an average of 73 percent saying they would welcome more information about how to make purchases online that are more sustainable.

Respondents from emerging Asian markets (88%) show higher willingness to learn how they can make purchases online that are more sustainable compared with developed Asian markets (66%) and Europe (66%). The sustainable online shopping behaviors also differ across regions, with emerging Asian markets (47%) more inclined to choose sustainable packaging whereas those in Europe (47%) tend to recycle more.

Half of consumers would only go sustainable if it’s convenient

Lack of information on how products are sustainable (48%) and the prices of sustainable products being too high (45%) are cited as the main barriers for consumers to make more sustainable purchases.

More than half of the consumers (53%) surveyed say they would only make sustainable choices if they were convenient, which is especially the case in Asian markets (61%) compared to European markets (36%). A third (33%) say living sustainably is not affordable, with Thailand (84%) leading the pack, followed by the UAE (41%) and Spain (37%).

Amid shifting consumer sentiments, businesses can play a significant role in making it easier for consumers to make sustainable conscious choices, the report finds. Making sustainable products more affordable (61%), making fewer products using single-use plastics and packaging (55%) and having a wider selection of sustainable products and services (47%) are the top three ways consumers say businesses can do to promote consumer sustainability.

But businesses, especially among those living in European markets, need to work harder to build trust among consumers on their sustainability claims, said the research. About 23 percent of consumers say they “do not trust very much” the claims around sustainability of products from businesses, with the highest proportion in France (31%), Spain (31%) Germany (30%) and the UK (30%).

Nearly two in five consumers (38%) are cynical about the underlying motivations of businesses’ sustainable products, with Thailand (56%), France (48%) and Singapore (47%) as the top three markets where consumers say sustainable products are just a way for companies to sell their products at a higher price.

“We believe companies can better earn consumer trust by addressing their own ‘say-do’ gap such as being more transparent and committed with their sustainability claims and backing their sustainable practices with data. This will also lead to greater empathy toward consumers along our common journey of sustainability,” Wei added.

About the survey:

“The Sustainability Trends Report 2023” was conducted by Yonder Consulting, a UK-based consulting firm, with advisory and analysis support by Hong Kong-based sustainability consultancy, The Purpose Business, between January 26 and February 14, 2023 based on feedback from 14,125 consumers to an online survey.

Respondents of the survey are located in 14 markets across Asia, Europe and the Middle East: Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the UK, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, South Korea, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Singapore and the UAE.

Asian developed markets referred in this research include Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Singapore and South Korea while Asian emerging markets refer to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

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