The Sustainable Consumer 2023

Adoption of more sustainable lifestyles continues to grow, but sustainable choices need to be made more affordable and widely accessible for consumers to contribute to the net zero transition.
The Sustainable Consumer 2023

Understanding consumers’ attitudes to sustainability and how to influence change is important. Consumer spending accounts for over a quarter of all UK emissions. In fact, it is the single largest contributor to total UK greenhouse gas emissions.

This is the fourth year Deloitte has conducted a survey into consumer attitudes to sustainability and sustainable behaviours. Our latest research shows that consumers continue to become more environmentally conscious. However, given inflationary pressures, the increasing adoption of sustainable lifestyles may be more about saving money than saving the planet. This year, more consumers are adopting sustainable lifestyles by choosing goods that are more durable or that can be reused or repaired easily. With economic uncertainty continuing, the question is: how much of this behavioural change will become permanent?

Please click below to explore the research findings

In summary

Click to expand on each of our key findings below

In the past 12 months there has been an increase in the proportion of consumers saying they have adopted a more sustainable lifestyle across 11 of the 23 sustainable behaviours we track in our research. In contrast, there was a fall in six of them.

In a sign that the cost of living crisis is having an impact, behaviours with the largest increase in adoption this year include buying more second-hand items, paying more for longer-lasting products, repairing more, and using the car less.

In addition to adopting money-saving sustainable behaviours, more consumers are taking into consideration durability and repairability when making a purchase in 2023, and whether products are labelled as responsibly sourced or manufactured, or support biodiversity.

While most consumers have tried to lower their energy consumption, for example by reducing the number of hours when their heating is on, less than a third have adopted the more expensive energy-saving options such as improving the insulation of their home or installing solar panels or heat pumps.

Frequently-purchased and essential items, such as groceries and everyday household products, drive consumer interest in sustainable and ethical values the most.

Nearly one in five consumers said they drive or fly less, and use public transport more, than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Compared with 2022 there has been an increase in the proportion of consumers taking ‘circularity’ into consideration across 12 of 15 relevant behaviours. The biggest changes relate to circular activities aimed at saving money: 76% of consumers say they would consider using a repair service (compared with 73% in 2022), 39% are reselling more of their unwanted possessions (compared with 32% in 2022), and 34% are buying more second-hand products this year (compared with 29% in 2022).

This includes paying more to protect biodiversity or for sustainable products and packaging, or for products or services of suppliers that respect human rights or commit to ethical working practices.

While the main reasons for not adopting a more sustainable lifestyle remain the same as in 2022, a higher proportion of consumers mentioned them: these relate to cost (62%), a lack of interest in sustainability (58%), and not having enough information (50%). When asked what help they need to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, consumers continue to ask for sustainable alternatives to be more affordable (56%), as well as requiring more help with the removal of plastics and packaging (53%) and for clearer guidance on how to dispose of or recycle products (46%).

A third (34%) of consumers stated that their trust in brands would be improved if they were recognised as an ethical/sustainable provider by an independent third party. A similar proportion (32%) claimed that their trust in brands would be improved if they had a transparent, accountable, and socially and environmentally responsible supply chain.

A note on the methodology

These findings are based on a consumer survey carried out by independent market research agency YouGov, on behalf of Deloitte. This survey was conducted online with a nationally representative sample of more than 2,000 UK adults aged 18+, between 7th and 9th July 2023.

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Emily Cromwell

Sustainability and Climate Change, UK lead Consumer industry

Anne-Marie Malley

Sustainability and Climate Change, UK lead

Céline Fenech

Research Manager