Most Canadians thinking about sustainability in holiday purchases

26 November 2021 2 min. read
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Most Canadians (80%) say they are considering sustainability when making purchasing decisions this holiday season, according to EY’s Future Consumer Index Survey.

“Being at home more has shown many people that they own too much stuff. They want a space that’s less cluttered, and they are more aware of the environmental impact of throwing things out,” said Kristina Rogers, global consumer leader at EY. “Others have had to cut back because their finances are tight.”

Rogers says that consumers are showing a growing interest in products that can be kept in circulation longer, either by being higher quality, or by being rented or resold. Fifty-three percent of global respondents in EY’s consumer index say they are more likely to repair something than replace it.

Nearly half of global consumers (48%) told EY they have more clothes than they need, while 46% said they don’t need to rely on beauty and cosmetic products because they feel more comfortable in their own skin.

Most Canadians thinking about sustainability in holiday purchases

“The pandemic has helped Canadians realize that they can live with less and consume responsibly, driving them to take actions to be more sustainable in their everyday lives,” said Lokesh Chaudhry, EY Canada consumer co-leader.

A large plank of this shift in consumer attitudes is a concern about sustainability, with many shoppers paying more attention to company operations and behaviour. When choosing what to buy, Canadians are looking for companies that manufacture sustainably (69%), behave ethically (70%), and are transparent about their environmental impact (71%).

“With some consumers willing to pay a premium on local or sustainable alternatives to mainstream products, retailers and brands must be bold in the way they communicate sustainable value — like the long-term savings or benefits of reusable and higher quality products — to get out in front of competitors,” said Ryan Beck, EY Canada consumer co-leader.

Responding to this desire for better and greener products – which is being driven by younger generations’ favourability to minimalism, the sharing economy, and environmentalism, as well as perhaps their lighter pocketbooks – would require a substantial transformation for many firms. The typical supply chain churning out near-disposable goods in factories using non-renewable energy in countries with low pay and shoddy human rights records is a far cry from what many consumers seem to be searching for. A product built to last like a made-in-the-US kitchen appliance from the 1950s and delivered via a green supply chain would be counter to most of the manufacturing trends of the last 40 years. Such products would certainly cost much more, but rental or subscription models could make it more palatable for non-wealthy consumers.

“It could take a refreshed approach to quality, sourcing, and service to successfully drive this shift, to keep existing customers happy or attract new ones, and to maintain their loyalty,” Rogers said. “If you move to a ‘better rather than more’ world, what new services, content, and experiences will you create to drive new sources of value and revenue?”