Consumers, SMBs More Concerned About Climate Change Now Than Before Covid

Eco bag on kitchen counter with food in jars and fresh fruits. Zero waste concept
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine

It may have felt as though sustainability and climate change were backseat issues in 2020, but a new study reveals they remain key concerns for consumers and business owners alike.

Sustainable technology specialist iugis has launched a consumer and small business study, ‘Sustainable Re-set’, showing sustainability remains a serious worry for the majority of Australians.

The study, undertaken by YouGov from between 22 to 26 October, surveyed 1,024 consumers and 303 small business owners about their attitudes to sustainability and food waste.

It revealed the majority (75 per cent of consumers and 64 per cent of SMB owners) are concerned about sustainability and climate change with around a third in each group even more concerned about these issues now than they were before the pandemic.

Not only are many Australians more concerned about sustainability but the majority (78 per cent of SMB managers and 85 per cent of consumers) feel it’s important for businesses to adopt more sustainable practices, such as reducing food waste, to aid Australia’s economic recovery from the devastating impact of Covid-19.

Food waste featured in the top three environmental concerns for small businesses and the top ten environmental concerns for consumers, with most survey respondents underestimating it’s economic and environmental impact.

Government behind the curve

Despite food waste being a top concern, local, state, and federal governments were found to be wanting when it came to combating the problem.

More than six in ten SMB owners believe all levels of government—including federal (62 per cent), state (64 per cent) and local (67 per cent)—can do more to address the issue of food wastage.

In addition, more than two-thirds of consumers believe state (68 per cent) and federal (67 per cent) governments should be doing more to address the issue of food wastage.

However, both groups also admitted they need to do more to reduce food waste themselves with 77 per cent of consumers and 68 per cent of SMB owners stating responsibility lies with themselves in turn, and not the government alone.

Jeff Olling, global chief of stakeholder relations at iugis, commented: “Twelve months ago, faced with the devastating impact of the most severe bushfire season in living memory, the issues of climate change and sustainability were gaining momentum in this country.

“This research shows we should be placing them squarely back on the agenda to help deal with the challenges that lie ahead,” he said.

“The majority of Australian small businesses and consumers believe there is an important link between sustainability and our economic recovery from the impacts of COVID-19.

“We’ve seen our counterparts in the UK and EU increase their efforts in sustainable practices as they see it is a key component of economic and social prosperity, we’re likely to see a similar policy direction in the US following the recent election and the research shows there is a clear mandate for our own government to follow suit.”

Other key findings from the report include:

Cost of food wastage underestimated among Australian consumers

Only 6 per cent correctly estimated that food wastage costs the Australian economy $20 billion each year, with the majority (56 per cent) estimating this value to be lower.

Knowing the cost of food wastage key to motivating Australians to reduce food waste

This is the biggest motivator to reducing food wastage among Australians, followed by more education/information around the issue of food waste and practical tips/guides to reducing food waste (59 per cent respectively).

Cost the key barrier for SMBs to reduce food waste

As many as 71 per cent of SMB owners/managers whose business involves food say there are barriers to reducing food wastage, with capital being the major stumbling block followed by not knowing how many small businesses are addressing the issue (21 per cent) and time (18 per cent).

The gender split

Women business owners (50 per cent) are more likely than male business owners (35 per cent) to think it will be very important for businesses to adopt more sustainable practices (renewable energy, food waste diversion from landfills) to aid the nation’s economic recovery from COVID-19.

“The research gives us a clear indication that Australians want a reset when it comes to food waste,” iugis chief executive Bill Papas said.

“Not only are we looking at governments to do more, but we recognise as citizens that we must tackle this issue head on. We are the fourth highest contributor to food waste per capita in the world and food waste costs the economy an estimated $20 billion a year.

“Reducing this figure will have a dramatic impact on our environment and economy.

“As we move into the new year let’s put reducing food waste on top of mind to make sure we leave a lasting legacy for future generations to follow,” he said.

The study included 1,024 consumers and 303 SMBs, who were surveyed online between 22 and 26 October 2020.

The survey was divided into two portions, SMBs and consumers, which reflects two key national demographics. You can access iugis’ full Sustainable Re-set report here.

Featured image source: iStock/Anchiy

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