Press releases

The price is not right for consumers trying to make more sustainable choices

04 July 2022

  • New Deloitte research finds that the cost of goods and services is stopping consumers from making greener purchasing choices;
  • 52% of consumers say it is too expensive to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle and 57% say they would do more if it was more affordable;
  • More than half of consumers (59%) say they are now only buying what they need, compared with 39% in 2021;
  • While people recognise what makes a product sustainable, 52% of consumers prioritise a product’s durability over other environmental factors like recyclability; and
  • 53% of consumers claim to have repaired instead of replaced an item and 40% have bought second-hand refurbished goods in the last 12 months.

The number of UK consumers who have adopted a more sustainable lifestyle has risen in the past year, but cost is proving to be a barrier for those wanting to make more sustainable and ethical purchasing decisions, according to new research from Deloitte.

According to Deloitte’s Sustainable Consumer 2022 report, responses from more than 2,000 UK adults found that UK consumers have significantly increased their focus on making conscious sustainable purchasing decisions in the last year. The study revealed that 59% of consumers are now buying only what they need, up from 39% in 2021. In addition, 30% of respondents said they had opted for low emission or shared modes of transport (up from 19%) and 39% said they had reduced meat consumption (up from 30%).

The research also found that consumers are most likely to make sustainable or ethical choices in categories they deem essential and buy most frequently, such as groceries. Sustainable choices include buying more seasonal produce (54%), buying locally produced goods (48%) and reducing food waste (39%).

The cost of going green

Despite the increase in demand for sustainable purchasing, cost is proving to be a major consideration for consumers. The majority of consumers (52%) said it is too expensive to do so while 57% said they would do so if it was more affordable to choose green alternatives.

The cost of living is also proving to be a factor, with 28% consumers not adopting a more sustainable lifestyle in the last 12 months because of current economic uncertainty, including the impact of rising prices.

Most consumers recognise what attributes make a product more sustainable, including being biodegradable (65%) or made from recycled packaging (60%). Despite this, when it comes to considering a purchase, 52% of consumers say they are still more likely to prioritise durability over recyclability or biodegradability.

When considering purchasing a product, one in three (32%) consumers believe that 'environmentally or ethically sourced' labelling is not very, or not at all, important to them.

Consumers are also showing more of an interest in ‘circularity’ with 53% claiming to have repaired instead of replaced an item and 40% having bought second-hand or refurbished goods in the last 12 months. However, only 7% of respondents said they hire or rent items instead of purchasing them.

Other reasons why consumers are not adopting a more sustainable lifestyle include a lack of interest in the issue or not having enough information - 51% said they are not interested in doing so and 48% feel they don’t have enough information to do so.

Emily Cromwell, ESG lead for the consumer industry at Deloitte, commented: “At a time when making sustainable choices is more important than ever, the rising cost of living is putting pressure on consumers’ finances. While it’s positive to see a marked improvement in consumers buying only what they need, it’s important to consider that this could also be a result of cutting back more generally. For many consumers, opting for sustainable alternatives is just too expensive.

“The onus is on brands to persuade people to make greener choices by offering more affordability and availability. It’s also important that consumers receive enough information to understand why they would choose more sustainable products and to encourage consistent sustainable behaviours going forward.”

Is trust a must?

A quarter of all consumers do not know what to trust when it comes to brands sustainability commitments (25%), and 21% state that no claims a business could make on climate change could influence how much they trust them.

When asked what would influence how much they trust brands’ commitments to climate change, 35% of respondents cited the importance of having a transparent and environmentally responsible supply chain. A strong public perception, record and reputation around sustainability (30%) and public commitments such as net zero targets (30%), were also important to consumers.

Cromwell added: “Brands need to work on helping their customers to trust their sustainability commitments, and consumers are increasingly echoing what brands are hearing more and more often – the proof is in the pudding. UK consumers are clearly mindful of a brand’s record and reputation around sustainability and green issues. Consumer business leaders need to keep this front of mind as they drive their brand to make tangible, positive steps to a greener future.”


About the research

Deloitte’s Sustainable Consumer 2022 report captures a nationally representative sample of more than 2,000 UK adults aged 18+. The survey was conducted between 1st and 2nd June 2022 by independent market research agency, YouGov, on Deloitte’s behalf.

Sustainability at Deloitte

Deloitte recently announced expansion and investment in its global practice “Deloitte Sustainability & Climate”, assembling one of the largest global networks of sustainability experience including an investment of US$1 billion in client-related services, data-driven research, assets and capabilities. In addition, it has offered sustainability training opportunities to its workforce including a climate learning programme delivered to all 330,000 of its people worldwide. This training was spearheaded by Deloitte’s World Climate team, which drives the firm’s internal sustainability strategy and external climate impact collaborations.

About Deloitte

In this press release references to “Deloitte” are references to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (“DTTL”) a UK private company limited by guarantee, and its network of member firms, each of which is a legally separate and independent entity. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of DTTL and its member firms.

Deloitte LLP is a subsidiary of Deloitte NSE LLP, which is a member firm of DTTL, and is among the UK's leading professional services firms.

The information contained in this press release is correct at the time of going to press.

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