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Environmental issues take their rightful place on Earth Day

Online research on sustainability shows a marked increase in consumer passion for the environment. Picture: Nareeta Martin/Unsplash

Online research on sustainability shows a marked increase in consumer passion for the environment. Picture: Nareeta Martin/Unsplash

Published Apr 22, 2021


People around the world are becoming more environmentally conscious and are willing to do what it takes to ensure the planet's longevity, and this move is being led by the youth.

As Earth Day is observed around the world on April 22, new online research on sustainability this year, commissioned by Mastercard, shows a marked increase in consumer passion for the environment, as personal attitudes toward the environment evolve as a result of Covid-19.

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In South Africa, 98% of the sample of 1000 adults surveyed online stated they’re willing to take personal action to combat environmental and sustainability issues as compared to 85% globally.

The vast majority (81%) of South African respondents also said they are even more mindful of their impact on the environment since Covid-19, with the trend being led by Gen Z (89%).

A growing Instagram posse who believe in changing attitudes are pushing the drive, from zero-waste Instagrammers to sustainability homesteads, social media appears to be driving an increase of environmentally conscious consumers, with 52% of respondents seeing information about climate change across social media channels.

Read the latest Simply Green digital magazine below

This signals a growing trend toward eco-conscious spending and consumption among people who want to turn their efforts and purchases into meaningful action for the planet.

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The survey indicated three quarters (76%) of South African respondents think it’s now more important for businesses and brands to do more for the environment. Nearly half of respondents (45%) will give more value to brands that act in a responsible, transparent and honest way.

42% of respondents want to learn more about environmental subjects. Picture: Kris Mikael Krister/Unsplash

Buying less impulsively by being more aware of purchases is one of the top changes South African respondents will make as a result of Covid-19.

As consumers across the globe call on companies and brands to behave in more sustainable and eco-friendly ways, respondents in South Africa highlighted the top three issues they want companies and brands to focus on, besides dealing with the pandemic.

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1. Specifically, they want brands to focus on the health and wellbeing of their employees (39%),

2. Reduce waste (34%)

3. Reduce air and water pollution (34%).

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Earth Day is observed around the world on April 22. Picture: Amy Shamblen/Unsplash

Vivian Warby, editor of IOL Environment division and the newly relaunched Simply Green Magazine, says it is heartening to see this play out in action.

“Through the work, we are doing, we are exposed to phenomenal South Africans from all cross-sections, who have the earth at heart. These are people who are going off the grid or forming sustainable communities based on collaboration and a shared economy.

“These are decision-makers, thought leaders and NGOs that are doing all they can to mitigate climate change and other impending disasters. This community is all about sharing their experiences and helping others make life changes that will be kinder to the planet.

Picture: Dave Spiess/Unsplash

"Not only that but the pandemic and load shedding as well have played a part in showing sections of the community - who in the past saw environmental and green issues as fringe - hop on board, and make some changes."

Jorn Lambert, chief digital officer, Mastercard said "by embedding sustainability into the very fabric of our business – from pay-on-demand solar energy products to tools that help inform consumer spending – we can unlock the power of our network, reaching billions of consumers and partners, to create positive change for the environment.”

Three quarters (76%) of adults surveyed in South Africa feel reducing their carbon footprint is more important now than pre-pandemic. In 2021, 48% of adults in South Africa will actively try to recycle more, while 42% want to learn more about environmental subjects.

Social media appears to be driving an increase of environmentally conscious consumers. Picture: Dustan Woodhouse/Unsplash

The trend toward more conscious consumption has grown over the last decade. However, changes in attitudes and actions have increased at a rapid rate as a direct result of Covid-19.

Fifty-four percent of South African adults admit that the increase in single-use plastic during the pandemic has encouraged them to make better environmental and sustainable decisions. Over half will also buy less impulsively and be more aware of what they buy, with this trend being led by more women (59%) than men (49%).

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