product list written on a blackboard

What Drives People to Buy and Use Sustainable Products 

As you know, there is a huge gap between saying and doing when it comes to sustainable consumption habits (well, when it comes to habits in general). Most of us say we would like to be careful about what we buy, perhaps minimizing waste and the use of single-use plastic bag, or supporting only companies that show care and respect for the environment. Many of us say we are willing to pay more for sustainable products. Many of us say. But the data and facts have been painting a very different picture for years.

Surveys also compared consumers’ (self-declared) values with their action. The gap is significant. While 40% said it is important to them that the products they buy are produced in a way that has a low impact on the environment, only 22% said they have actually made a conscious decision to try to buy sustainable products in the last month.

Obviously, to push for a real change in the choices of companies, it is essential to bridge this gap between intention and action.

The good news is that academic research has identified ways in which both individuals and companies can influence people to make more sustainable choices.

Here are three of the main conclusions.

Social influence
The behavior of friends, family and neighbors is one of the main factors that determine our actions. When you know that others are striving to buy sustainable products, most likely you would do the same. 

Changing habits
It is often said that human beings are creatures of habit. So, once people develop sustainable patterns of behavior, these are likely to remain part of their shopping habits. Companies can push this with simple actions, such as making their most sustainable products their main selling option.

Stay Positive
People tend to act in a manner that brings them a sense of satisfaction. Therefore, it is essential to help them in feeling a sense of pride in their decisions and in perceiving that their conduct can contribute positively to the future.

What do you think about it? Would you agree on the main conclusions of the surveys?

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21 thoughts on “What Drives People to Buy and Use Sustainable Products 

  1. I do try to buy sustainably but I must admit one of my concerns is because the cost of living has increased and people are struggling more, they may not be able to afford to pay the premium for sustainable products.

      1. I would but I guess not everyone thinks that way. When I look at some of our students, the college has been providing breakfast and lunch for them because they can’t afford to feed themselves.

      2. As an organisation, we’re trying to do what we can to support our students

      3. I am shocked because you are living and working in Scotland, UK, that is member of the G7. Moreover the UK is where the so called welfare state was born. Of course, pockets of deprivation are everywhere but children going to school (and their families) usually get the support of social care. It’s good that your organization supports your students.

      4. I should say its adult education – not children. But it is difficult for some to cope with the constant increases to food prices.

    1. I found that the farmer’s market here is a little bit cheaper for produce, but not by much. Of course, on a really tight budget, it’s often hard to buy fresh produce. Still, a pound of quinoa with some onions and whatever produce is on sale can furnish an affordable and healthful meal. Tofu is quite a bit cheaper than meat, too.

  2. We had a controversy in my home city over a law about plastic bags. Lobbyists actually successfully defeated this bill in the General Assembly of the state of Virginia in the U.S., on the grounds that plastic bags can be recycled, and the law might penalize shoppers (hmmm.) Meanwhile, just to the north, outside of Washington, DC, where I live, people are mostly all bringing bags with them to save the five cents they are supposed to pay if they don’t. (Thought with self-checkout, the honor system is the only way to tell.) Many, many people bring their bags with them, not just the obvious greenies. The law is working, saving wildlife, and helping keep a bit of CO2 out of the atmosphere. A little financial incentive pushed a majority from “ooops, I forgot my bag again!” to “hmm, I will be putting a bag in my purse/pocket every time I shop.”

    1. It’s interesting what’s happening where you live. I do the same, I always bring with me my shopper, as you say it helps a bit the environment.

  3. I think most of us want to live in a sustainable world. We make our personal efforts to save our environment. But, I think the most impactful action happens when a harmful product is removed from the shelf.

    1. EU regulations impose the use of compostable products in fast food/drink places. Actually all the single use items shall be compostable here in Europe.

  4. I love the 3 specific conclusions to support bridge this gap between intention and action. What a great way to drive the point home. Thanks, Cristiana!

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