Nearly 7 in 10 consumers expect brands to solve environmental issues

EY's latest consumer survey reveals low-impact sustainable actions still outpace real financial commitment.


While environmental concerns continue to shape our purchasing decisions, we still prioritize value for money, which is creating tension over who should shoulder the burden of sustainability.

These are among the latest findings from EY’s Future Consumer Index survey of just over 500 respondents, which also finds that 69% of Canadian consumers expect companies to solve sustainability issues.

According to the professional services firm, 61% of Canadian consumers will pay more attention to the environmental impact of what they consume as we emerge from the pandemic. And this is at cross purposes with the fact that 64% of respondents intend to focus more on the value they get for their money, informed by 77% of consumers’ concern about the long-term impact of COVID-19 on their finances.

As such, according to Lokesh Chaudhry, EY Canada consumer co-leader, green purchase intent is often not translated into action.

“Retailers looking to help bridge the gap between action and intention, and do so profitably, will need to shift their mindsets to creating products that reflect the concerns of consumers, while ensuring that business operations behind the brand meet those expectations as well,” Chaudhry maintains.

Among EY’s other findings are that the majority of Canadians are pivoting to a more sustainable way of living. We are committed to recycling or reducing plastic waste (91%), composting products (58%), buying organically (49%) or bringing reusable shopping bags to stores (88%), even if there are slight demographic discrepancies, revealing that generations take different actions to live more sustainably.



EY reports that rather than making significant financial commitments toward societal goals around sustainability, over half of consumers are pursuing low-impact, no-cost actions that save them money, like conserving water for example.

“The lack of financial commitment means that most consumers across Canada rely on companies to act as leaders in driving positive social and environmental outcomes,” Chaudhry adds.

The survey finds there is an opportunity for brands to address a sustainability education gap among consumers, nearly three quarters of whom (73%) report they need more information to make better choices when shopping.

The outcome is that more sustainably produced products and services have to overcome perceptions they’re higher priced (71%), poorer quality (67%) and less trustworthy thanks to deceptive marketing (66%).

Transparency – especially among younger consumers – and new ways to collaborate with suppliers, competitors and consumers themselves will be a means of cultivating long-term customer relationships, EY says.