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Pivoting consumers' focus towards sustainable products

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Pivoting consumers' focus towards sustainable products

An increasing number of consumers are choosing a greener lifestyle today. According to a whitepaper by Mahindra Group, ‘Alternativism,' there is evidence that consumers view sustainable products and services in a favourable light and are seeking alternatives to traditional products to reduce their environmental footprint. The challenge for brands, however, is to create a viable pool of sustainable alternatives which are not just durable but also affordable. The whitepaper states that 88% of respondents view eco-friendly alternatives as expensive or ineffective, making it a deterrent for many to make the switch to a green lifestyle. The existence of this ‘green attitude-behaviour gap' highlights the lacuna between a favourable attitude towards green goods and services, and the action of purchase.

Despite that, the citizenry in India who are committed to a green lifestyle is growing and is triggered by various reasons.

The pandemic impact

One of the biggest shifts in consumption patterns has been brought on by the pandemic. Awareness about ethical and environmentally-conscious consumption has been high. According to a report focused on young Indian consumers by Schbang's consumer research division, the year 2021 will see a decisive shift with regard to their spending habits. An overwhelming 74% of young Indians now direct spends towards products that bring value to themselves and the society at large. They support small businesses and 72% are willing to pay a premium for environmentally-friendly products. Shoppers are becoming aware of the environmental impact of fast fashion and of the health repercussions of processed foods. The young Indian is willing to put his money where it matters by buying local, small and sustainable.

The young and conscious Indian

But does the young Indian have enough muscle power to make a lasting impact on building a green economy? In 2020, India became the youngest country in the world with more than 400 million Millennials (born after 1981) who are driving growth in the country, according to a Morgan Stanley Research report. It's hard to overstate their sheer importance to the economy. While they account for just a third of the country's population, they are already responsible for 70% of the total household income and comprise 46% of the workforce. Globally, millennials are heralding a tectonic change when it comes to sustainability. Aware of how they can affect the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), this young cohort is diverse, educated, optimistic and are financially and health conscious.

Leading from the front

Support for the sustainability movement for young India is coming from the government's commitment towards the SDG goals, a holistic effort which is being driven by leading states Kerala and Himachal Pradesh with an SDG score index of 69 along with Union Territories Chandigarh and Puducherry with scores of 68 and 65 respectively. To achieve these goals, state governments have launched a host of programs with public engagement being a key part of these. These initiatives, including the government's Swachh Bharat mission, the smart cities, the Namami Gange Mission, the National Clean Air Programme and the National Policy on Resource Efficiency, work towards sustainable development, while tackling issues such as climate change and air pollution.

Amplifying, energising and assisting through technology

Technology is a key driver in helping consumers live more sustainably, be it by amplifying messages through digital mediums such as social platforms or bringing efficiencies through Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things. Tech is driving the sharing economy, which has been embraced by the millennials in large numbers, adopting a mindset of equality, sustainability and community, through ridesharing apps like Uber or holiday rentals like Airbnb. It has made solar power accessible; it has brought about LED light efficiency; it has connected people globally on apps such as Zoom to collaborate and foster growth without the need to travel, thus mitigating its adverse environmental impact; and has made messages of climate change and sustainability go viral. It will continue to shape the sustainability agenda this year.

Companies rising to the challenge

As customers strive to lessen their carbon footprint, companies are adapting, and addressing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) concerns. The Alternativism whitepaper urges companies to adopt out-of-the-box strategies and take responsibility for their impact on the environment, as pressure for transparency mounts.

Two years ago, Tata Starbucks embraced packaging solutions that were compostable and recyclable, and the company has embedded sustainability into its ways of doing business. Last year they achieved a target of sourcing 99% sustainable coffee while eliminating single-use straws on a global scale.

With the pollution caused by single-use plastic dominating airwaves, Adidas stepped in to tackle growing marine pollution with their cutting-edge shoe prototypes made with plastic waste combined with 3D technology. They created a futuristic shoe made from upcycled materials from the ocean, while the sole is a 3D print from nets and recycled polyester.

As the world's leading brewers, AB InBev, has been a leader in sustainability with their 2025 Sustainability Goals guiding their actions. At the forefront are their impact initiatives on Smart Agriculture, where they are driving digitisation, farmer upskilling and financial empowerment; Water Stewardship, which focuses on improving the water availability and quality among its communities; Climate Action, which they are advancing by increasing purchase of electricity from renewable sources and reducing CO2 emissions across the value chain; and lastly, Circular Packaging by increasing recyclable material for their product packaging.

Companies can accelerate this momentum and help consumers live their values though the right products by offering them transparent accountability and mitigate any quality concerns they may have. This will be mutually beneficial for consumers who want sustainable products, and companies who aim to achieve the triple bottom line of purpose, profit and the planet.

Bibliography:

 

https://www.mahindra.com/news-room/knowledge-centre/impact-stories/alternativism-a-state-of-mind-for-true-sustainability

https://brandequity.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/marketing/be-exclusive-how-2020-changed-the-young-indian-consumer/80119029

https://www.morganstanley.com/ideas/India-millennials-growth-sectors

https://pib.gov.in/Pressreleaseshare.aspx?PRID=1577014

https://www.tataconsumer.com/media/news/2019/02/22/tata-starbucks-reiterates-commitment-towards-environmental-sustainability

https://www.arch2o.com/adidas-recycled-shoes-ocean-waste-parley-for-the-oceans/