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IBM study finds pandemic increased consumer awareness on sustainability

The IBM Institute for Business Value’s (IBV) latest survey discovered consumers have become more conscious about the importance of having a sustainable environment after experiencing life in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nine in 10 respondents admitted that the current global health crisis contributed to the shift in views.

IBM IBV surveyed more than 14,000 adults globally from nine countries (Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States) in March 2021 to get a grasp of consumers’ perspectives on environmental sustainability.

COVID-19 emerged as the No. 1 factor, more than wildfires or natural disasters, in the change in views. The survey also found consumers are now willing to make sacrifices, such as pay cuts or extra costs, to ensure a sustainable future. They are also willing to change their shopping habits, travel choices, and even employers they want to work for. In fact, 71% of employees and employment seekers surveyed say that environmentally sustainable companies are more attractive employers.

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The survey found that 48% of respondents trust corporate commitments on sustainability, with 64% expecting increased public scrutiny in the year ahead.

The same sentiment goes for the types of personal investments wherein they take into account environmental sustainability factors. Forty-eight percent (48%) of all personal investors surveyed already take environmental sustainability into account in their investment portfolios and 21% surveyed say they are likely to do so in the future. In the same breadth, 59% of personal investors surveyed expect to buy or sell holdings in the next year based on environmental sustainability factors.

Climate change

“The survey showed respondents worldwide are increasingly concerned about the global climate crisis, and we have also observed businesses in many industries looking to take action to meet their customers’ and investors’ expectations and manage their own environmental goals,” said Dr. Murray Simpson, global lead for sustainability, climate and transition, IBM Global Business Services. “We see many companies beginning to make strides to build transparent supply chains or improve energy management to reduce carbon emissions with the help of innovative technologies like AI and Blockchain.”

Geographical location is also a factor in differing consumer opinions. IBV found Americans surveyed are the least concern about sustainability topics with only 51% of US consumers surveyed said addressing climate change was very or extremely important to them, compared to 73% of respondents from all other countries.

Environmental sustainability

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s financial impact on many individuals, 54% of consumers surveyed are willing to pay extra for brands that are sustainable or environmentally responsible.

In addition, 55% of consumers surveyed report sustainability is very or extremely important to them when choosing a brand, which is 22% higher than consumers surveyed pre-COVID-19 pandemic by IBM. Slightly more than 6 in 10 consumers surveyed said they are willing to change their purchasing behavior to help reduce the negative impact on the environment, with consumers surveyed in India (78%) and China (70%) being the most willing.

With regards to travel, almost 1 in 3 respondents strongly believe their personal travel habits contribute to climate change with 82% of consumers surveyed globally would choose a more environmentally friendly transportation option even if it costs more, but only 64% of American respondents agreed compared to 95% of Indian and 91% of Chinese respondents.