Sustainability: Consumers in emerging markets ready for change
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Sustainability: Consumers in emerging markets ready for change

With sustainability and ESG issues coming to the fore, sustainable disruption is on the way in the emerging countries. The Emerging consumer survey 2021 indicates a shift toward a more sustainable, healthier, and environmentally friendly lifestyle.

Our survey results point to a clear message: emerging market consumers are worried about the state of the environment and intend to change their behavior. New consumption patterns will both benefit and disrupt several sectors. We have identified three themes likely to affect consumption across the emerging countries: From petrol to EV, Alternative transport, and Healthy living.

Do environmental concerns influence your spending decisions?

Younger and older consumers equally concerned

The popular view is that the "environmental agenda" is driven more by younger consumers than by their parents. Our survey does not support this opinion. Consumers aged 46 and older are influenced almost equally by environmental considerations as consumers aged 18–29. Also, income levels do not matter significantly. Both lower- and higher-income earners are willing to pay more for ecofriendly and organic products.

Single-use plastic tops the list of problematic products

The issue of plastic pollution worries most respondents across the surveyed countries. With readings ranging from over 80% in Brazil to 65% in Thailand, it clearly is the top concern.

Fast fashion, on the other hand, despite its burden on the environment, does not seem to worry our respondents. One possible reason could be the lack of focus on this issue by the broader media and governments, especially compared to the attention paid to plastic or petroleum products.

COVID-19 changed consumers' view on public transport and bicycles

Around 40% or more of our respondents are becoming increasingly concerned about petrol and diesel-powered cars. These concerns are likely to translate into a growing demand for electric vehicles in the future.

While some respondents would like to use public transport more because of environmental issues, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused them to be more cautious about using it. The question remains whether this is a structural or short-term phenomenon because a successful energy transition and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions require – among other things – a shift away from private car use to public transport.

Today's transport method of choice is the bicycle. It is cheap, helps to avoid parking and traffic jam issues, and offers a healthy form of exercise. A bicycle is also a good alternative to public transport during the pandemic.

Healthy food on the rise

Emerging market consumers have become more worried about their health since the outbreak of the pandemic and have adapted their consumption accordingly. More than 50% of respondents from all the surveyed countries except Russia – both younger and older – have increased their consumption of healthy food. What’s more, consumers are more likely to decrease their spending on beer and cigarettes and increase their spending on water. Organic food, sugar-free products, and healthy drinks are likely to grow.

Younger and older consumers equally  increased their spending on healthy food  since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic

Emerging consumer at higher risk from climate change

Environmental concerns have been rising steadily among citizens globally over the past few years. Climate change, however, poses a greater threat to those living in the developing countries and affects their daily lives. For example, rising temperatures, flooding, and drought put pressure on the food supply. Over half of the population in the least-developed countries face moderate or severe food insecurity. In Latin America and Asia, more than 30% of consumers face the same challenge.

Our survey provides strong evidence that environmental concerns do influence emerging markets consumer spending behavior. In future editions of our survey, we will revisit this topic to assess how disruptive sustainable consumption in emerging markets really is.