Consumers are highly sceptical of the chemical industry’s concern over its environmental impact, according to the findings of a survey by consulting firm Accenture.
The survey, in which 6,000 consumers in 11 countries across North America, Europe and Asia participated, aimed to identify purchasing and consumption habits regarding different types of packaging and products, as well as consumer views related to the recycling and reuse of materials.
Almost one-third of UK consumers said they believed that, out of all nine of the industries included in the survey, the chemical industry was the least concerned about its impact on the environment.
Consumers also ranked chemical companies the lowest among industries on the reliability of the communication regarding the environmental impact of their products and services, with 76% saying they were not very confident or not confident at all about the messages communicated by these companies.
“While some of the survey results are encouraging, there are also implications for chemical companies,” said Rachael Bartels, senior managing director for chemicals and natural resources practice at Accenture.
Chemical corporations, she went on to say, need to overcome negative consumer sentiment and to produce sustainable materials at a competitive price.
“The chemical industry is a critical enabler to the circular economy and can speed up its adoption, and the reality is the industry must get in front of this now, or risk being left behind.”
The survey also found that almost half of UK consumers (46%) are prepared to pay more for sustainable products designed to be reused or recycled.
While consumers remain primarily focused on quality and price, 81% believe it’s important or extremely important for companies to design products that are meant to be reused or recycled.
Over two-thirds of UK respondents said they were currently buying more environmentally friendly products than they did five years ago, and 77% said they expected to buy more over the next five years.
“The shift in consumer buying, with more consumers willing to pay extra for environmentally friendly products, reinforces the need for companies to increase their commitments to responsible business practices,” said Bartels.
“Companies across industries have started to lead with purpose, including embracing the circular economy as a greater opportunity to drive growth and competitive agility.”
In the UK, quality and price led consumers’ considerations when making purchases, cited by 88% and 89% of respondents, respectively.
Some 28% were concerned with health and safety considerations and 32% with the environmental impact of products, when purchasing.
In other survey findings, plastics was perceived to be the least environmentally friendly type of packaging, cited by 84% of UK consumers, with paper products perceived to be the most environmentally friendly, cited by 59% of respondents.
Accenture surveyed 6,000 consumers, ages 18 to 70, in 11 countries: the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, the UK, China, India, Indonesia and Japan.
The polls were conducted in April and the results were published in June.