How COVID-19 has changed our attitudes to environmental sustainability
There is a common perception that being “environmentally friendly” is a luxury. In difficult times, we tend to think that these concerns are pushed aside. However, numerous reports from around the world have shown us that in the wake of the pandemic, people are more concerned about environmental challenges and changing their behaviour to act in a more sustainable manner.
So why has the Covid-19 pandemic had such a profound effect? And what impact will this have on businesses and brands?
A time to reflect
The near-global shutdown of business and travel during the early stages of lockdown resulted in a dramatic drop in greenhouse gases and air pollutants, with charts, graphs and visualisations presenting a view of the world without human activity for the first time.
A consumer trends survey by Deloitte found that 85% of consumers adopted at least one lifestyle change to be more sustainable during 2020, with a third considered “highly engaged” – up 17% on the previous year.
One of the easiest ways for individuals to express this change in attitude is through purchasing behaviour. A 2020 global survey by management consultancy Accenture found consumers have “dramatically evolved” their habits since the onset of the pandemic, with 60% making more environmentally friendly and sustainable purchases, and 9 out of 10 saying they will continue to do so.
With this shift in purchasing behaviour, sustainability is no longer an additional nicety, but a key element of any company’s strategy in order to be successful. And it is not just purchasing behaviour that has been affected, but people’s workplace aspirations. The IBM Institute for Business Value found that 71% of employees and job seekers they spoke to found environmentally sustainable companies as more attractive, with nearly half suggesting they would accept a lower salary to work for such businesses.
Therefore, whatever business, there is always the opportunity to do better when it comes to sustainability. This can mean sourcing more local goods, or a whole range of other ways such as less energy-intensive production methods, using renewable and recycled materials, removing toxic materials, and creating closed-loop economies.