Barriers to lifestyle change
For decades, people have talked about the need to be more sustainable, but the reality of the current environmental crisis shows that we have not been successful in achieving this. Yet survey after survey shows that people are concerned. Globally, nearly 75% of young people say they feel the effects of climate change and in the UK two thirds support urgent action to combat the climate emergency.
A recent Ipsos MORI survey commissioned by the Evening Standard showed 85% of adults are now concerned about global warming, one of the highest figures ever polled.
In the past, however, survey results like these have not translated into real action. People still buy unsustainable food, fly frequently and don’t take the meaningful daily actions that help to reduce their environmental impact. Barriers such as ease, availability and current lifestyle trends mean that sustainable living has been more of an aspiration than a reality for most of us. There’s even a term for saying you’re going to be sustainable but not doing it – ‘virtue signalling'.
However, this is changing.
The growth in movements like Extinction Rebellion and the schools Strikes for Climate, led by Greta Thunberg, are all sending very clear messages to our leaders that increasing numbers of people want to see change that will preserve the environment, protect animals and prevent dangerous climate change.
At Giki, we’re seeing this firsthand in the way that people are using our free app to change their decision making in the supermarket. We launched Giki in 2018 and almost 20,000 people have already downloaded it. What we’ve seen is that people want to change their supermarket shop to be more sustainable and healthy, but can only do that when the information is presented in an intuitive and easy to understand way. Whilst we rate 280,000 products and crunch millions of data points, this is irrelevant to consumers who want to see simple badges, clear information and compelling alternatives. When they get this information, more than 80% of people make a change.
When people get transparent information about sustainability they don’t signal, they act.
So what’s driving this action? It appears to be a combination of emotion and a deep interest in specific topics.
For example, when people find a product in Giki with a high number of badges they tend to feel good. However, whilst the converse is true with low badge products, it’s not symmetrical. We’re all reluctant to accept that some of the familiar items we buy are not healthy or sustainable, and a few of them will probably be part of many people’s shop for a long time to come!
In terms of topics, two really stand out: palm oil and carbon footprint. Palm oil resonates with many people not only because of the effects of deforestation on carbon emissions, but more importantly for many, because of the direct link to animals such as the orangutans who are critically endangered.
The interest in carbon footprints is more direct. With many people appreciating that high carbon footprint foods such as beef need to be dramatically reduced.
More broadly, animal welfare and responsible sourcing are also on people’s agendas and every environmental topic we cover rates higher in terms of interest than health impacts of food and non-food products.
Underpinning all of this is an important change: people see that acting more sustainably is a benefit not a cost. Caring for the environment is no longer seen as meaning a lower quality of life but rather the only way to preserve and improve it for ourselves and for future generations.