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It’s, of course, not a new concept. The 60’s and 70’s were the catalyst to many of the things we now view as mainstream from sexuality, social issues to the start of the environmental movement. The mere reference to this era, conjures up stereotypical images of hippies, flower power, guitars and campfires. That was maybe so, but it was the era in which the topic of sustainability began to get real traction.

Since then, its importance is unquestionable. No longer a niche topic of discussion reserved only for the eco-warriors or woke generation but an important topic that’s on the minds of many, across all demographics.

The UN climate change conferences and the resulting agreements to change the way we think and operate as a global community, combined with the work of powerful activists, serve only to further push sustainability up the agenda.

And as this trickles down into the business world, it’s now commonplace to see sustainability embedded into companies’ missions and business strategies at the very highest level. Goals are measured in the boardroom and in financial reporting, and businesses have dedicated functions to drive the sustainability agenda across every aspect of an organization’s operation.


Has it reached the mainstream consumer?

A somewhat rhetorical question. Much research has been done on sustainability in the consumer space and it’s fair to say that year on year it continues to feature highly on shoppers’ agenda’s.

Research carried out by Aviva found that two thirds, 68%, of respondents said they were more likely to pick brands with sustainable or climate-aware credentials. And this was backed up by research done by Deloitte where 34% of consumers choose brands that had environmentally sustainable practices / values and 30% choose brands that operate ethically.

Taking a closer look at what this looked like for those consumers, the top 3 most valued reasons were:

  1. Waste reduction [44%]
  2. Producing sustainable packaging and adopting circular practices. [43%]
  3. Reducing carbon footprint. [43%]

And when all respondents were asked what they’d actually done in the last 12 months to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, 61% said they’d limited their use of single-use plastics. By far, the number one action taken by consumers.

This gives a very clear message that reducing waste, single-use plastics, as well as, recycling and recyclable packaging are becoming a prerequisite to helping consumers live more sustainably.


Our Shepper Check

We decided to see how both single-use plastic and recyclable packaging showed up on the shelves of some of the biggest grocery brands on the high street. We asked our community of Shepherds, who use our app to complete a whole range of data collection checks from stock, displays, customer experience, adverts and POS as well as mystery shopping, to visit the big 4; Co-Op, Morrisons Daily, Sainsbury’s Local and Tesco Express and find out just how things stacked up.


Here’s what we found:

  • Across all grocery categories the percentage of products using single-use plastics sat at a whopping, 64%.
  • The fresh meat section fared the worst with 85% of the products using single-use plastics. This was followed by confectionery at 75%, and cleaning products and drinks, both at 70%.
  • The bakery section, although still a high percentage, had only 40% single-use plastic in its packaging.
  • The use of recyclable packaging came in at a very low 37% across the product categories.
  • Once again the meat section came bottom of the list with only 16% of the packaging being recyclable.
  • The bakery and frozen sections had the highest scores of using recyclable packaging at 58% and 56%, respectively.
  • And drinks, cleaning products and confectionery were all around the 30% mark.

And across all four of the retailers that our country-wide network of Shepherds visited, Morrisons Daily had a very small edge over its competitors for it’s brand / product range being the lowest on single-use plastics and highest in using recyclable packaging.


More to be done

The results from our nationwide data collection and checks show that the choice for consumers when it comes to recyclable packaging and single-use plastics is limited. Yet research tells us that this is key to the choices that consumers make today and key to satisfying the demand to want to take more actions to live sustainably.
This demand can only mean one thing and that’s that the metaphorical voice of the consumer wallet will only continue to get louder and louder.

To find out how our nationwide community of over 50,000 Shepherds can help you carry out a whole range of asset checks and help you reduce your carbon footprint in the process, then get in touch. We‘d love to hear from you.


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