From Circular Economy to Eco-Friendly Packaging: Sustainability & Reuse 10 Trends Dominating the Scene

From Circular Economy to Eco-Friendly Packaging: Sustainability & Reuse 10 Trends Dominating the Scene

These are the top ten sustainability trends currently influencing consumer behavior, spanning areas from reducing single-use plastic to a growing preference for sustainable packaging and an increased willingness to pay for environmentally friendly products and services. These trends highlight a significant societal shift towards a more sustainable lifestyle, affecting multiple industries, from retail to hospitality, and they underscore the pressing importance of sustainability as a key factor for the future.

Trend #1 - The TOP environmental lifestyle people change is reducing their single-use plastic consumption

The most prominent environmental lifestyle change among 68% of consumers surveyed was limiting single-use plastic. The second most prominent shift was choosing brands with environmentally sustainable practices or values. The main challenges preventing consumers from reducing their single-use plastic consumption are the inconvenience of doing so. (Deloitte Report)

Trend #2 - People want more sustainable packaging 

According to McKinsey & Company, 43% of US consumers cited environmental impact as extremely important for packaging. Over half of US consumers express high levels of concern about the environmental impact of packaging, demonstrating a broader awareness of environmental issues beyond singular factors such as marine litter. This widespread concern translates to a willingness to pay a premium for eco-friendly packaging solutions, indicating a market shift towards greener choices. 

In the beverage sector, an increased demand for more traditional materials like metal and glass underscores this trend. The report concludes that if more sustainably packaged products were readily available and properly labeled, consumers would be inclined to purchase them, thus emphasizing the critical role of sustainability in future packaging strategies. (McKinsey Report)

Trend #3 - People are switching to refillable water bottles and ditching single-use plastic

In 2015, just 20% of people in the UK used a refillable water bottle; now, almost 60% practice refilling. Britain is witnessing a transformative shift in how the nation drinks, with a burgeoning culture favoring refillable water bottles. With support from councils, firms, and a cultural evolution embracing refills, more Britons are adopting the habit of carrying a refillable water bottle. Such behavioral changes are fueling the refillable bottle market in Europe, currently valued at almost $2B, with projections of nearly 40% growth by 2028. Despite this, activists highlight the challenge of reducing the 10 million single-use water bottles purchased daily in the UK.

Collaborations with more than 80 councils and a network of local chains has led to the creation of a Refill app, indicating over 32,000 locations across the UK where free bottle refills are available. Additionally, local authorities, recognizing the social justice and public health implications of easy access to clean, free water, are increasingly becoming "refill destinations." ( via The Guardian)

Trend #4 - A surge in traveler desire for sustainable accommodations and amenities

81% of travelers surveyed said they plan to choose a sustainable accommodation option in the coming year. A growing trend in the hospitality industry points towards a rising preference for sustainable and eco-friendly practices among both travelers and hotel operators, as evidenced by numerous data points. 

Moreover, a third of hotel guests, and 44% of those under 25, tend to research a hotel's environmental and social practices before booking, reflecting the rising value of ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) considerations in the industry. These trends extend to practical hotel operations as well, with successful moves like the introduction of towel reuse programs resulting in significant water savings. 

Notably, the elimination of single-use toiletries has also gained momentum, with states like New York and California either considering or having already implemented bans. Major hotel chains, such as IHG and Marriott, have proactively removed single-use toiletries from their properties, resulting in substantial savings and waste reduction. The industry-wide shift towards sustainability is further underscored by the participation of over 60 hotel companies in the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, accounting for 25% of the global hotel room inventory. The importance of sustainability and eco-friendliness in the hospitality industry is far from a passing trend and is predicted to continue to shape its future. (Hotel Tech Report)

Trend #5 - People want to make the right choices to live healthier, more sustainable lives

65% of consumers want to make the right spending choices to live a healthier and more sustainable life. For food producers and manufacturers, this means breaking down the barriers of cost and availability, providing consumers with transparent and easy-to-understand information, and ensuring that the taste and quality of sustainable options are at par with, if not better than, their less sustainable counterparts. This is a dynamic interplay of meeting consumer demand for products that are beneficial for both people and the planet. (World Economic Forum)

Trend #6 - A sustainable life is important to almost 80% of people

Nielsen IQ found that 78% of US consumers say a sustainable lifestyle is important to them.

Consumer trends reflect a significant shift towards sustainability and social responsibility. Among the top concerns for consumers is climate change, with 45% citing it as a major worry. Data over the past two years indicates an increased preference for socially responsible and sustainable products. 

Specifically, 22% of consumers now opt for brands that supported customers during COVID-19, 17% choose environmentally sustainable brands, and 16% purchase products from socially responsible brands. There is a notable trend in the conversation evolving from sustainability to regeneration, emphasizing social responsibility, equity, justice, and animal welfare.

Growth in on-pack claims related to sustainability over the past three years further evidences this trend, with social responsibility claims increasing by 22.1%, environmental claims by 24.5%, sustainable packaging claims by 17.5%, and animal welfare claims by 37.1%. Consumers also express the desire for companies to minimize their ecological footprint, with 53% wanting less plastic in packaging, 51% advocating for waste elimination, and 46% demanding sustainable packaging materials. This report from Nielsen concludes that companies failing to meet these evolving consumer expectations are likely to face legislative consequences. (Nielsen IQ)

Trend #7 - Consumers care about the environmental impact of the products they buy but struggle to identify them

74% of consumers care about the environmental impact of the products they buy. But they can't identify it. 79% want an easier way to identify environmentally friendly companies. The "Business of Sustainability Index" report, based on a survey of over 1,000 US consumers, reveals a growing trend of American consumers preferring sustainable businesses and demonstrating a willingness to pay more for sustainable products and services. (PDI technologies)

Trend #8 - Grocers are taking action on sustainability measures

83% of grocers cited waste reduction as their primary sustainability focus, and 77% cited energy utilization as their primary sustainability focus. Grocery retailers worldwide are prioritizing sustainability initiatives to reduce environmental impact. Consumer interest in shopping sustainably has increased in the past year, with 48% of respondents stating so and 74% claiming to have shopped at least once in the past six months at a retailer promoting sustainable products. Grocers view sustainability as a significant issue, with 71% considering it a key priority in 2023, and the main focus areas include waste reduction, energy efficiency, and packaging improvement. (Progressive Grocer)

Trend #9 - Sustainable products continue to grow despite the high inflation period

Consumers are more invested than ever in making responsible choices in today's environmentally-conscious market. Sustainable products now hold a 17.3% market share, continuing to grow in the face of a high inflationary environment. The latest research from NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business and Circana demonstrates that sustainability-marketed products continue to grow despite high inflation. These products outperformed conventionally marketed ones in 36 categories, indicating a shift in consumer behavior favoring sustainability even under economic pressures.

The narrowing price premium differential between sustainable and conventional products suggests that more conventional brands are incorporating sustainable features, further promoting sustainable consumption. The trend represents a clear response to changing consumer preferences, as sustainability continues to play a pivotal role in the market despite the economic environment. (SternNYU

Trend #10 - Climate change has propelled consumers toward making more sustainable shifts 

In recent years, climate change has provoked a significant shift toward sustainability in consumer behavior and business practices. Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, a key player in the retail sector, is addressing this trend head-on with its ambitious Better Places 2030 strategy, aiming to halve carbon emissions and foster eco-conscious environments.

Recent surveys revealed that not only is sustainability a top priority for consumers when shopping, but a significant proportion are also willing to pay a premium for eco-friendly goods. In particular, there is high consumer expectation for sustainable practices in food, including waste reduction. These insights are shaping the retail industry's evolution, with sustainability becoming a business imperative rather than a 'nice to have'. Companies must adopt a ground-up approach to sustainability to meet consumer demands and contribute positively to the environment. (Forbes)

A better PATH

At PATH, we’re proactively fulfilling sustainability initiatives across all sectors. We invite potential retailers and partners to join us in the refill REvolution, helping consumers make a positive impact. Reach out to our team and explore how we can create a better PATH together.


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