- Air quality (43%), plastic pollution (41%) and climate change (39%) are Indian consumers’ top three environmental concerns.
- 71% say local extreme weather events encourage them to do more to protect the environment.
- Nearly half (46%) have bought fewer new clothes as part of consumer action to help the planet.
Consumer engagement in sustainability has deepened in the past 12 months as environmental concerns escalate. According to new research from the Mintel Consulting 2022 Sustainability Barometer, the number of Indian consumers citing air quality as a top three environmental concern is higher than the global average (43% of Indians vs 36% global average)*.
In addition to air quality, concerns over plastic pollution (41%) and climate change (39%) are on top of Indians' minds. With a population of over 1.3 billion according to World Bank data, India is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change as levels of urbanisation and development activities increase.
The number of consumers who believe they still have time to save the planet if they act now has risen from 51% to 56% between 2021-22*. Growing awareness is also evident as 71% of Indians agree that local extreme weather events (e.g., flooding, heatwaves) encourage them to personally do more activities to protect the environment. This desire to help the planet brings with it a feel-good factor as an overwhelming 77% of Indians say doing things that benefit the environment makes them feel happy, while a further 49% say they have researched their annual carbon footprint (e.g., with an online calculator or app).
Indian consumers’ sustainable behaviours have focused on simplicity and frugality. For instance, buying fewer new clothes (46%), recycling packaging (39%) and buying products certified to be less harmful to the environment (37%) are the top sustainable behaviours over the last 12 months*
When asked about solutions they perceived to have a high-to-moderate positive impact on the environment, consumers are supportive of forestation and conservation projects and investments in renewable energy. For the latter, over a quarter (34%) of Indians think governments are most responsible for using renewable energy, while 70% would prefer companies to reduce their own carbon emissions rather than use "Carbon Offsetting" programs outside of their own area of business.
The second annual Mintel Consulting Sustainability Barometer features research and insight on consumers’ sustainability attitudes, behaviours, and purchase preferences across 16 countries*. It offers recommendations for companies and brands based on best-in-class innovations, communications, and campaigns.
Richard Cope, Senior Trends Consultant, Mintel Consulting, said, “Deteriorating air quality continues to be an immediate concern among Indian consumers. This, along with other environmental concerns impacted by inflation, extreme weather events, and supply chain disruptions, has given consumers a harsh reality check, hurting their health and wallets and activating them in the process. In the meantime, escalating activism, regulatory reaction and the sheer scale of the challenges ahead and solutions required have educated global consumers enough to sniff out greenwashing campaigns and there’s no going back from that. This means companies will increasingly need to assert—and clearly communicate—the truly impactful actions they are taking to reduce emissions, rather than simply offset them or dip their toes into populist ‘plastic free’ campaigns. This growing awareness around resource inputs and emission and waste outputs will also spell the end for ‘environmentally friendly’ as a credible marketing term.”
“Our research shows that consumers globally, including Indians, continue to see recycling and mitigating waste as important sustainable behaviours. This tells us that simple, frugal behaviours are the most popular among consumers, which underlines the fact that brands’ sustainability initiatives need to deliver on value and convenience. Looking ahead to 2023, expect to see resource (food, water, money) conservation ascend further up the agenda and the use of economising technology refurbishers and urban peer access sharing economies grow. For consumers, the connections between saving the environment, its resources and their money will strengthen,” he further added.
*500 internet users aged 16/18+ across 16 countries were surveyed in March 2021: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, UK, US; 1,000 internet users aged 16/18+ across 16 countries were surveyed in April 2022, with Poland and Ireland replaced by Indonesia and Mexico.
An Executive Summary of the Mintel Consulting Sustainability Barometer 2022 is available for free download here.