Why consumers are keen to support sustainable shopping

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024

Jason Ash, circular economy pioneer and co-founder with his wife Emma (above) of sustainable platform, YoungPlanet, predicts a rise in the “recommerce” economy in 2023, alongside a shift towards empowering and educating younger generations about sustainability

By Jason Ash

The rising popularity of the ‘recommerce’ economy has set up this year for a sustainable shopping storm, with more people actively looking to reuse, recycle or resell. Consumers have become more conscious of the wider impact of their retail habits, with recent data revealing that 62% are happy to change their purchasing habits to reduce their environmental impact, and 2023 looks to be the year in which the circular economy truly takes off. The circular economy revolves around the sharing, leasing, reusing, and repairing of existing materials or products (for as long as possible) in order to extend their ‘shelf life’ and reduce unnecessary landfill. The Circularity Gap Reporting Initiative recently revealed that the world reached the alarming milestone of 100 billion tonnes of materials consumed per year in 2022. And we only recycle or reuse 8.6% of these materials.

But there is hope for the year ahead. The global circular economy market reached a value of £150bn last year. Alongside environmental concerns, financial pressures are playing a key part in this rise, with many shoppers searching for cheaper or free solutions in the face of economic pressures. This included spikes in the number of second-hand presents being sourced in the run up to the Christmas period, with our sustainable platform, YoungPlanet, for example, recording a 45% increase in user downloads across a period of 8 weeks.

This shift reflects both a movement towards greener alternatives and finding savvy ways to save money – and we will see these terms become more mutually exclusive this year.

Eco-guilt will prompt action

Eco-consciousness and eco-guilt are also two interrelated trends set to take centre stage in 2023. These terms stem from the growing responsibility consumers feel when it comes to the sustainability of our shopping. Feelings of ‘eco-guilt’ are particularly prominent during the festive period, in which the UK produces 30% more rubbish than normal, meaning the early months of 2023 could spark a new push for greener consumption habits.

In fact, a new survey of 2,000 respondents, commissioned by our platform, YoungPlanet, revealed that more adults than not, feel guilty about the waste they created this Christmas – with 41% feeling bad about the amount of rubbish they created. A large proportion of the population are clearly aware of their environmental footprint and know which actions aren’t good for the planet.

Young people will demand more education 

A focus on educating the younger generation on the circular economy and eco-actions is also likely to become a top priority on the sustainability agenda this year. The same survey revealed that younger generations are far more likely to feel ‘eco-guilt’; with 57% of 16-24 year olds agreeing that they felt guilty about their household waste this Christmas. This is twice as high compared to those aged 55+, of whom only 26% said they felt guilty about their waste creation.

Likewise, another recent study revealed that 63% of parents are worried that young people aren’t educated on ways to reduce their environmental impact, and would like to be given advice on ways to implement this in everyday life. We’ll see more tools being created for children and families to educate themselves about sustainable alternatives and behaviour – from sustainable-themed e-books to recycled dolls. This educational agenda will continue to surge in popularity for the rest of 2023, alongside a higher demand for this topic to be taught more prominently in schools.

In summary, 2023 will see companies and marketplaces preparing themselves for an increase in demand for sustainable shopping. More consumers will engage in the circular economy, paving the way for more digital platforms, like ours, to facilitate the exchange of second-hand items. As eco-consciousness spreads, more educational tools will introduce younger generations to sustainable concepts and behaviour, fuelling the demand for eco-friendly consumption.

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024