Consumers expect brands to solve the plastic packaging problem

I won’t be the first person to point out that sustainability has remained a focus of consumer concern despite the enormous distraction of a World pandemic and the impact that has had on shopping behaviour. In some ways, it’s remarkable that shoppers have given much thought to the environment whilst they remain so preoccupied with distancing, hand sanitising and face masks.

Globally, concern for the environment has continued to grow, with climate change remaining the top environmental concern and plastic waste a close second. Both these, and all other environmental concerns, have grown with consumers since last year and overall, 46% of people now agree that they are personally affected by environmental problems.

That is not to say that Covid-19 has not distracted people in 2020. Consumers admit that they are less likely to check product labels on food products, for example, for the calorie, fat or sugar content as well as factors like palm oil or fair trade. But remarkably, data also shows that they are now more likely to check if the packaging can be recycled!

When they’re asked who they believe are the key stakeholders in reducing plastic waste, there is strong agreement with 43% pointing to manufacturers. Only 7% of consumers believe that the retailers have the most important part to play in the war on plastic packaging.

And when asked about the most acceptable and effective solutions to the problem, a majority (52%) favour packaging that can be 100% recycled. In Ireland where recycling infrastructure for most types of plastic is well developed and accessible, this figure rises to 72%. Consumers accept that plastic packaging has an important role to play, but they are concerned that it should not go to landfill or find its way into the ocean.

Notably, when asked to name a brand that is doing a good job on environmentally sustainable packaging, in 2019 only around 12% of consumers responded. In Summer 2020 this figure has risen to 22%. That’s a really significant change and one manufacturers and brand owners would be wise to watch.

Data published by Kantar, Who Cares, Who Does? 2020, GfK and Europanel survey of 80,000 people in 19 countries during Summer 2020