- Finances are a key concern for 78% of consumers surveyed
- 51% want to buy more sustainably, but 66% are deterred by high prices
Globally, levels of concern among consumers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are moderating slightly, according to the seventh edition of the EY Future Consumer Index. Thirty-nine percent of the 14,047 consumers surveyed believe the health crisis will continue to impact their lives for at least another 12 months, down from 40% in February 2021.
A key emerging trend is the prioritization of sustainability, which comes at a time when consumers are also re-evaluating other areas of their lives, including affordability. Most consumers (64%) plan to pay more attention to the environmental impact of what they consume, but 60% intend to focus more on value for money. This creates a tension over who should pay for sustainability.
Cristian Carstoiu, Partner, Consultig, EY Romania: “Amid a growing trend in the confidence of managing the COVID-19 medical crisis, consumers place an increased emphasis on managing family finances, but also on sustainability and returning to the pre-pandemic lifestyle. As a result of an increased desire to live sustainably, consumers prefer companies that invest in sustainability. These investments are, however, covered through an increased price of products, and consumers become reluctant to pay more for the same amount charged. Sustainability is understood differently depending on the geographical area, and companies should focus their efforts on the transparency of sustainability investments, but also in a clear communication on the values and actions taken in this regard.”
Sustainability gap between intention and action
Overall, 64% of consumers continue to spend more time at home than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Homes have become a hub from which people work, order deliveries, exercise and stay entertained, presenting a huge opportunity for them to pivot to sustainable choices that positively impact the environment and society. Thirty-one percent of respondents say they now spend more on products that are sustainable and better for the environment, and 64% are prepared to behave differently if it benefits society.
However, 78% of consumers are concerned about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their finances and 53% say price is a more important purchase consideration than before the pandemic, threatening the longevity of positive attitudes toward sustainable behaviors. Rather than make significant financial commitments toward helping achieve bigger societal goals around sustainability, many consumers are pursuing low-impact, no-cost actions that save them money. Indeed, over half of respondents (56%) say they mainly adopt sustainable behaviors if it saves them money, notably in relation to key consumer household activities, including conserving energy use (85%), recycling or reusing packaging after use (83%) and bringing reusable shopping bags to the store (83%).
Who will pay for sustainability?
This lack of financial commitment means that most consumers (68%) rely on companies to act as leaders in driving positive social and environmental outcomes. Consumers believe that companies have the ability to make a bigger impact through market-transformative, sustainable-focused processes and innovation: 28% believe that large multinational corporations should reduce waste generated during production and 25% believe companies should reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The EY Future Consumer Index also finds that there is a sustainability education gap among consumers: 61% say they need more information to make better choices when shopping. This reveals an increased reliance and need for transparency from consumer products companies and retailers to help lead and guide consumers in making sustainable choices. As a result, sustainable products and services face perception challenges, with many consumers deterred by concerns around poor quality (67%) and high prices (66%), and lack of trust due to past “greenwashing” and alleged deceptive marketing (60%).
Sustainability perceptions vary by market
According to the Index, when asked which sustainability issues personally concern them most, there is some disparity between consumer respondents across the world: plastic waste is the biggest concern in the US (62%) and the UK (73%), while air pollution is the top concern in China and water pollution ranks highest in Brazil (93%). This indicates that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for companies, and that they will need to consider regional nuances when looking to tackle sustainability issues.
The latest edition of the EY Future Consumer Index is available at ey.com/futureconsumerindex7.
About EY Romania
EY is one of the world's leading professional services firms with 298,000 employees in more than 700 offices across 150 countries, and revenues of approx. $37.2 billion in the financial year that ended on 30 June 2020. Our network is the most integrated worldwide, and its resources help us provide our clients with services allowing them to take advantage of opportunities anywhere in the world.
With a presence in Romania ever since 1992, EY is the leading company on the market of professional services. Our more than 800 employees in Romania and Moldova provide seamless assurance, tax, legal, strategy and transactions, and consulting services to clients ranging from multinationals to local companies. Our offices are based in Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Timisoara, Iasi and Chisinau. In 2014, EY Romania joined the only global competition dedicated to entrepreneurship, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year. The winner of the national award represents Romania at the world final taking place every year in June, at Monte Carlo. The title of World Entrepreneur Of The Year is awarded in the world final. For more information, please visit: www.ey.com
About the EY Future Consumer Index
The EY Future Consumer Index tracks changing consumer sentiment and behaviors across time horizons and global markets, identifying the new consumer segments that are emerging. The Index provides regular longitudinal indicators and a unique perspective on which changes are temporary reactions to the COVID-19 crisis, those which point to more fundamental shifts, and what the consumer post COVID-19 might be like. The seventh edition of the EY Future Consumer Index surveyed 14,047 consumers across the US, the UK, Canada, Brazil, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, India, UAE, Saudi Arabia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Australia and New Zealand during the weeks of 16 April through 10 May 2021.