The rise of climate-conscious consumers

What you need to know:

  • Climate-conscious consumers are a new breed of individuals actively seeking products and services that align with their values of sustainability.
  • These empowered consumers push businesses to adapt and prioritise the planet's well-being.

Eighty one per cent of global consumers now expect companies to demonstrate environmental responsibility in their advertising and communications, according to a 2023 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited. This statistic underscores a dramatic shift in consumer behaviour.

Environmental considerations are no longer an afterthought but a primary purchasing decision driver. Climate-conscious consumers are a new breed of individuals actively seeking products and services that align with their values of sustainability. These empowered consumers push businesses to adapt and prioritise the planet's well-being.

They go beyond mere environmental awareness to research a product's ecological footprint – from sourcing raw materials and manufacturing processes to transportation, use and disposal. This often involves scrutinising a brand's practices, certifications and commitment to sustainability.  Recognising the actual cost associated with environmental impact, climate-conscious consumers often pay a slight premium for sustainable products, demonstrating their commitment to walking the walk rather than just talking the talk.

Transparency is paramount for climate-conscious consumers. They easily spot and reject greenwashing tactics—misleading marketing efforts that paint a company as eco-friendly. Climate consciousness isn't a fad for them; it's a core value beyond individual purchases. They actively strive to minimise their overall environmental impact through everyday choices. This might involve adopting reusable alternatives to single-use plastics, reducing overall consumption and advocating for sustainable practices within their communities.

The power of the climate-conscious consumer lies in their ability to drive change within the marketplace. Their purchasing decisions send a clear message to manufacturers: sustainability matters. This growing segment incentivises companies to invest in sustainable practices and develop eco-friendly products. This, in turn, fuels innovation and creates a broader range of environmentally friendly options for all consumers.

Climate-conscious consumers are also at the forefront of pressuring industry change. By demanding transparency and holding companies accountable, they influence production methods, resource utilisation and waste management across industries. Their focus on ethical sourcing practices encourages companies to prioritise ethical supply chains, minimising environmental and social harm throughout the product lifecycle.

Businesses that recognise and adapt to this evolving market will attract a loyal customer base and contribute to building a more sustainable future. A 2023 Harvard Business Review report highlights the need to narrow the "intention-action gap" between environmental concern and actual purchasing behaviour.

Climate-conscious consumers have the power to bridge this gap, and manufacturers who prioritise sustainability will thrive in this new era.

So, how can manufacturers adapt their strategies to cater to this growing segment?

Sustainability at the core

Companies must integrate sustainability into their core business practices. This involves transitioning to renewable energy sources, minimising waste generation throughout the supply chain and adopting eco-friendly packaging solutions.

Transparency

Open communication about environmental impact is crucial and brands should be transparent about their lifecycle assessments, certifications and efforts to reduce their ecological footprint. Consumers are savvy and can readily identify genuine efforts from greenwashing attempts.

Innovation for sustainability

Investing in research and development to create sustainable products and solutions goes a long way toward driving corporate responsibility. This could involve using recycled materials, developing energy-efficient products, or exploring alternative production methods that minimise environmental impact.

Conscious consumers and extended producer responsibility

Climate-conscious consumers align with the growing adoption of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policies. Kenya's EPR policy established a framework that holds producers accountable for the entire lifecycle of their products, mainly focusing on plastic packaging, e-waste, lubricating oils and vehicle batteries. This policy reflects a global trend towards EPR, giving consumers a stronger voice in advocating for sustainable practices.

The current EPR regulations in Kenya require producers to register with the National Environment Management Authority, raise awareness on responsible waste management and conduct product life cycle assessments, fostering a shift towards environmental responsibility throughout the product development and consumption cycle.

The Kenya Extended Producer Responsibility Organization (KEPRO) spearheads plastic packaging EPR, fostering collaboration between producers, consumers and waste management stakeholders. Recent developments in Kenya's EPR policy include allocating over Sh6 billion in the 2023 national budget to support waste management infrastructure.

However, challenges remain. Universal compliance with producer obligations requires robust enforcement mechanisms and transparent reporting systems. Additionally, infrastructure deficiencies in waste collection, sorting and recycling, especially in rural areas demand substantial investment for improvement.

Bridging the gap in consumer awareness of EPR principles and responsible waste disposal practices requires sustained and targeted awareness campaigns. Financial sustainability hinges on funding mechanisms, including producer fees, government support and private sector involvement, which can result in implementation. KEPRO's expansion plans and multi-stakeholder collaboration, including collaboration with informal waste collectors, are vital to implementing Kenya's EPR policy and a model for other countries considering similar initiatives.