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Growing consumer awareness around sustainability a call to action for brands - study

According to a new study, 92% of South Africas say that the topic of sustainability is important to them, yet only 58% claim to be living sustainably. These figures come from the 'Conscious Consumption' report released this week by global consumer insights agency InSites Consulting, aimed at assessing consumer sentiment and behaviour regarding sustainability amongst four generations in South Africa.
Source: Getty
Source: Getty

Amongst those consumers acting more sustainably, the majority report to be using up leftovers (86%), limiting water use at home (84%), and mending/repairing household items rather than replacing them (80%).

The say-do gap

The ‘sustainability paradox’ i.e. the gap between acknowledgement (92% importance score) and action (42% not living sustainably), must be tackled by brands, according to the 86% of consumers who believe that “companies have a responsibility to take care of the planet”.

So, what are the barriers that brands can help consumers overcome? According to the InSites Consulting study, 74% of consumers said sustainable living must be more accessible (i.e. options more widely available); and 60% would adopt a more sustainable lifestyle if it required less time or effort.

Seventy-three percent of South Africans report that they would adopt a more sustainable lifestyle if it was clear which brands are sustainable; this is a call to action for brands.

Those that claim to be (more) sustainable are perceived as more trustworthy (62%), more up to date (66%), and providing a higher level of quality (65%), according to South Africans. Unfortunately, 70% of South African consumers have never heard of B Corp Certification, and just 4% have seen the label on packaging.

‘Buy’cotting on the rise

For those consumers who are aware of brands’ sustainability efforts (or lack thereof), boycotting is one way to express discontent. Eighteen percent of South Africans today report that they have boycotted a brand for sustainability reasons, specifically due to brands lacking gender equality support (24%) and the absence of recycling programmes (24%).

There is a rallying cry from consumers at either end of the awareness spectrum, for better behaviour from brands.

“Sustainability is not a problem that governments alone can solve; businesses also have to pull their weight. It is a shared responsibility that needs to be addressed today. Brands need to take up their societal role and take consumers along their journey through active and transparent communication. The time for brands to act is now, because in the end, good business is good business”, says Joeri Van den Bergh, partner and sustainability expert at InSites Consulting.

This topic will be unpacked further on Wednesday, 11 May at 9am, when Join Joeri Van den Bergh will highlight the key barriers that South Africans face in living more sustainably, and how brands can help people to overcome them. To register, please visit

Event attendees will receive early-bird access to the bookzine ‘Conscious Consumption: The South Africa Edition’. It will also be available to download for free following the event at

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