The level to which young people are changing their consumption habits in response to environmental concerns demands that retailers do more to show that their values are aligned.

I have reduced the amount of meat I eat because of environmental concerns

All figures are percentages, (dark green for yes, light for no)

I carry a reusable cup to reduce how many single-use takeaway cups I use

All figures are percentages  (dark green for yes, light for no)

* Data taken from GlobalData’s 2,000 respondent survey of nationally representative consumers conducted in November 2018.

GlobalData’s survey reveals the polarisation in the age of UK consumers who have changed their habits in the past 12 months to reduce their impact on the environment, such as carrying a reusable cup to reduce usage of single-use takeaway cups and reducing the number of carrier bags purchased. A greater proportion of consumers aged 18-24 have changed their behaviour as social media helps to spread awareness. However, consumers aged 65+ most avoid using plastic straws in cafes, restaurants and bars at 83.2%, as the proportion of consumers who have made this change rises with age – young consumers’ good intentions are not necessarily consistent and do not apply to all areas of change.  

42.5% of 18-24 year olds have reduced the amount of meat they eat due to environmental concerns, and 69.4% carry a water bottle to reduce how many single-use plastic bottles they buy as social media drives change amongst millennials. Younger shoppers are also more willing to adopt environmentally beneficial habits if widely accommodated by retailers – 68.2% of 18-24 year olds, the highest percentage of any age group, would be likely to take their own containers to use when buying fresh produce from supermarkets such as vegetables or deli counter products.

Retailers targeting younger shoppers in particular must ensure that their environmental strategies are adequate and clear to consumers, as the changes in habits indicate a wider consumer awareness of, and greater sense of responsibility towards, the damage being inflicted on the environment. This is especially important for grocers and food service providers, as reducing the plastic packaging of their products and selling more meat alternatives would increase their attractiveness to this key demographic group. Some grocers are already taking action, for instance Iceland has committed to removing plastic packaging from its own brand products by 2023 and is to ban palm oil in its own products due to the devastating rainforest deforestation caused by demand for the oil.