Consumers demand action from manufacturers to tackle plastic pollution

New research from Kantar’s Worldpanel division, in collaboration with GfK and Europanel, reveals that only one in five (19%) consumers believe they should be taking personal responsibility for their plastic waste, while half (48%) expect manufacturers to take the lead on tackling the issue.

The Who Cares, Who Does? study, which launches today, surveyed more than 65,000 people in 24 countries—exploring how they feel about the use of plastics by FMCG manufacturers and retailers. The answers have been compared with Kantar and GfK’s extensive purchase panel data to truly understand how changing attitudes towards plastic are affecting consumers’ relationships with the brands and retailers they choose.

Despite manufacturers being expected to take the lead, nine in 10 (88%) consumers can’t name a single one doing a good job of reducing plastic waste, and eight in 10 (82%) can’t name a retailer. At the same time, nearly half the global population (49%) have little or no interest in environmental challenges and do not choose products because of their sustainability credentials.

Referencing the levels of concern shown by the research participants against the claimed frequency with which they take actions to reduce their waste, Kantar has created four unique customer segments – Eco Actives, Eco Believers, Eco Considerers and Eco Dismissers* – highlighting how different sections of the global population view environmental challenges and how it impacts the choices they make.

Only a fifth (16%) of global consumers are Eco Actives—shoppers that consciously work to reduce their levels of plastic waste. They are more than twice as likely than the next group (Eco Believers) to frequently perform environmentally conscious actions—with the majority avoiding using plastic bags (80%), single-use plastic drinks bottles (75%), products in plastic packaging (66%) or meat (36%).

Eco Actives tend to be much older than other groups— over 50s are 17% more likely to be in this group and under 30s are 20% less likely. They also make up a fifth (21%) of total FMCG spend in the UK alone—suggesting those that have more time to plan and prepare alternatives are leading the sustainability movement.

Furthermore, consumers say the most important actions for retailers to take are reducing plastic in the fresh and chilled aisles (43%), removing plastic bags for vegetables (39%) and using plastic alternatives (36%). However, only two in five (41%) shoppers are willing to pay more for recyclable packaging.

Natalie Babbage, Global Link Q Director, Kantar’s Worldpanel division, commented:“With Eco Actives making up 16% of all shoppers globally, it’s clear that taking action on plastic waste needs to be a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ for manufacturers and retailers. We’re already seeing small reductions in spending on categories such as meat, bottled drinks and beauty wipes—and as awareness grows, we expect more categories to experience reduced growth.

The onus is on manufacturers to offer competitively priced sustainable options, and on retailers to take steps to remove packaging from products and push reusable bags. By taking these steps now, clients can unlock the opportunities of environmental concern and play a vital role in shaping the future of our planet.”

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