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Environmentalism was already on the rise before the novel coronavirus pandemic, with more retailers taking public, environmentally conscious stances. A recent study indicates that since the pandemic, however, consumers are even more driven by environmental concerns and retailers will take a hit if they ignore the phenomenon.
Seventy-two percent of respondents to a survey by research firm GWI said, as of July 2020, that sustainability was more important to them because of COVID-19, Inc. reports. Thirty-nine percent listed a poor environmental record as one of their top purchasing concerns and it was one of the top three factors determining customer behavior. A study by IBM found 60 percent saying that they would change shopping habits to reduce environmental impact. More than 70 percent said they would pay a premium for brands that are sustainable and environmentally responsible.
The article suggests that retailers can beef up their environmental bona fides with customers by:
- Joining one of the many organizations dedicated to addressing environmental and corporate responsibility issues;
- Making the management of environmental goals a responsibility for a board member, committee or appropriate associate(s);
- Attending virtual or physical events pertaining to environmental issues.
It is not so clear, however, that pandemic-era shopping trends have been in keeping with customers’ avowed dedication to environmentalism.
At the start of the pandemic, concerns over potential transmission of the virus via contact with a contaminated surface (which were later proven mostly unwarranted) and the desire for customers to get in and out of stores as quickly as possible led to a proliferation of pre-packaged goods in grocery stores. Single-use plastic bags, which had been banned in many U.S. municipalities, also experienced a resurgence in use with some cities suspending plastic bag taxes.
The number of shipping boxes consumed by customers likewise expanded dramatically as customers were pushed to use e-commerce at an unprecedented rate beginning in March of 2020.
Surveys also indicate that customers are growing suspicious of retailers’ attempts to brand themselves as eco-conscious and skeptical about retailers making good on their environmental commitments.