Global citizens find sustainability key consideration in purchasing: OFX

Global citizens believe that sustainability is an important consideration when making a purchase or lifestyle choice, according to research from global money transfer company OFX.

OFX earlier this year launched the Where the World’s Moving Global Report, looking at consumer attitudes toward key lifestyle trends that are impacting individuals and businesses now and in the future. Sustainable lifestyle was one of the key trends studied in the report.

The study surveyed the attitudes of 800 people across Australia, United States, United Kingdom and China. Two thirds of respondents “agree or strongly agree that sustainability is an important consideration factor before they make any purchases or lifestyle choices. About the same proportion agree or strongly agree they prefer to buy from brands with a social impact purpose beyond profit,” the report said.

“The biggest conclusions coming out to me is this idea that companies have a bigger purpose and a larger role to play in society,” says Thomas Milburn, associate director of Corporate Citizenship, a global consultancy specialising in sustainable and responsible business. Milburn contributed analysis to the sustainability trends piece of the report.

“I started working in responsible business and sustainability a little over ten years ago,” Thomas says. “At that time, it was about having a good reputation, having a responsibility to do the right thing. In that 10 years, we’ve started to shift, as consumers in the business world, as the business has become more interconnected with every aspect of life and gov’t and intergovernmental trends engaging in this trend of sustainability, we’ve moved away from being responsible and not acting bad, and more how do we engage business to solve our biggest challenges.”

According to their report, 40% of respondents say sustainability impacts on purchasing decisions, 37% say they are adapting to be environmentally sustainable, 42% stay updated on sustainability issues, and 34% buy from conscientious brands.

This should give heart to entrepreneurs who are engaging in businesses that look to address the big megatrends affecting our planet.

“It’s hard to get an entrepreneur excited about what they can’t do, but if you talk to them about solving problems, that starts to tap into the real power of business – how can we build smarter cities, tap into the low carbon economy, feed seven to nine billion people,” Thomas says. “That’s the shift I’ve seen in the last decade.”

Interestingly, sustainability is also a major factor in where people choose to live. The report found that almost 60% of respondents “agree or strongly agree sustainability is an important factor in deciding their place of residence. This view is particularly strong in China – 83% of Chinese respondents in the global report say sustainability plays a role in where they choose to live.

The drive towards customer-driven sustainability isn’t uniform, the report notes.

“For instance, 88% of Chinese respondents agree they are consciously adapting their lifestyle to be more environmentally sustainable compared with 67% of Australians,” the report notes. “Almost nine in 10 Chinese respondents agree sustainability and its impact on the environment is an important factor in purchase decisions compared with 58% of Australians. While Australians are adapting to environmental sustainability, the research suggests they aren’t as willing as the Chinese to change purchasing behaviours or make major lifestyle changes to achieve this.”

This provides an interesting challenge for businesses as well as citizens.

“There is this kind of feeling that, if you want to make a quick buck, you can, but the business that stand the test of time can create value for shareholders and are business that aren’t just out to make money, but also out to make a difference,” Thomas says. “How do we create value?  A large group of enlightened leaders who have come out of the scandals of the last few decades, are looking beyond minimising their environmental footprint and their social footprint, married with not just doing a bit of good on the side, or doing less bad, we’re really seeing people connecting the dots between who I am, I don’t just leave my values at the door when I walk into my office, marrying societal life and responsibilities and who they want to be as people, and how they work.”

The report is presented by OFX and produced by BBC StoryWorks Commercial Productions. The fieldwork for the study was undertaken online in August 2018 by Kadence International.