Consumers Cynical Towards the Underlying Motivation of Sustainable Products, Report

A vast majority (73%) of consumers want to live more sustainable lifestyles, particularly among those living in emerging Asian markets (87%), but inconvenience and high costs are cited as the main stumbling blocks to the adoption of sustainable lifestyles, according to independent research commissioned by the Alibaba Group.

The research, titled “The Sustainability Trends Report 2023”, polled more than 14,000 consumers from 14 markets across Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. It finds that convenience (53%) and affordability (33%) are critical for driving behavioral changes in consumer sustainability and businesses can make it easier for consumers to make sustainably conscious choices.

But the research found consumers are cynical (38%) towards the underlying motivation of businesses’ “sustainable” products, with only 15% saying that they completely trust claims around the sustainability of products. Businesses need to work harder to build trust among those consumers, especially among people living in European markets.

Respondents from emerging Asian markets (88%) show a higher willingness to learn how they can make purchases online that are more sustainable compared with developed Asian markets (66%) and Europe (66%). The sustainable online shopping behaviors also differ across regions, with emerging Asian markets (47%) more inclined to choose sustainable packaging whereas those in Europe (47%) tend to recycle more.

Sustainable Products Too Expensive

Half of the consumers would only go sustainable if it’s convenient; with a third believing sustainability is not affordable

Lack of information on how products are sustainable (48%) and the prices of sustainable products being too high (45%) are cited as the main barriers for consumers to make more sustainable purchases.

Over half of the consumers (53%) surveyed say they would only make sustainable choices if they were convenient, which is especially the case in Asian markets (61%) compared to European markets (36%). A third (33%) say living sustainably is not affordable, with Thailand (84%) leading the pack, followed by UAE (41%) and Spain (37%).

Over half (58%) of consumers say they’ve already engaged with sustainable practices and they feel they are already personally doing a great deal. There’s also a general openness towards learning about sustainable online practices, with an average of 73% saying that they would welcome more information about how to make purchases online that are more sustainable.

“As a digital platform company, Alibaba is uniquely positioned and committed to addressing the ‘say-do’ gap challenge; by reducing the inconvenience obstacle, adding more sustainable choices, and optimizing supply chains to keep costs reasonable for consumers,” said Liu Wei, Alibaba Group ESG Strategy Lead.

“Sustainable consumption is crucial for the environment, and in the meantime it provides a great opportunity for businesses, as well as the digital economy as a whole, to have a long-lasting development into a sustainable future for all,” Liu added.

Alibaba’s own carbon ledger platform has seen a total number of 187 million consumers participating in carbon emission reduction activities in the 12 months leading to March 31, 2023, with 1.91 million products from 409 brands offered on Tmall and Taobao through its low-carbon friendly products program as of March 2023, its latest ESG report revealed.

Respondents to the survey came from fourteen markets across Asia, Europe, and the Middle East including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the U.K., Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, South Korea, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Singapore, and the UAE.

Asian developed markets referred to in the research include Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea, while Asian emerging markets refer to Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand.