Over a third of Canadians ‘tune out’ sustainability messaging

Mintel research shows consumers struggle to understand which actions are impactful.

Even though sustainability is important to Canadians, and they want companies to show they feel the same way, the message isn’t getting through a significant portion of consumers.

That’s according to a survey of 2,000 Canadians by Mintel, which found 35% of consumers generally ignore or tune out sustainability messaging from brands.

The survey’s findings suggest this isn’t an instance of consumers being unreceptive to environmental action. The numbers show that 71% of Canadians see themselves as a sustainable consumer, with 82% acknowledging that their choices have an impact on global sustainability. A further 43% of respondents say the onus on companies to be responsible for improving sustainability, compared to 28% who say it’s on individuals and 26% who say it is up to governments.

Some of the messaging may be tuned out because it doesn’t meet consumer standards for meaningful action on sustainability, something that is important for them to it seriously. Among the things Canadians want to see, 81% say businesses should provide information about the carbon footprint of their products and 63% say they’d like to be able to immediately offset the carbon footprint of a purchase.

However, the barrier can also be attributed to the amount of noise in sustainability messaging. Many consumers struggle with what the term sustainability actually means and wrestle with what actions are truly impactful, with 83% say it’s hard to always know what the most sustainable choice actually is.

“Companies have an opportunity to be leaders by making sustainable consumption simple to implement and easy to understand. Transparency will be welcomed by Canadians who acknowledge that they need help to fully understand the impact of their consumption,” says Scott Stewart, associate director, lifestyle and leisure, at Mintel. “And there is still a lot of confusion around the topic, meaning education and guidance are necessary.” 

The majority (65%) of consumers say they are satisfied with the amount of sustainable action they are taking, including 73% of men aged 18-34 and 64% of women 65 plus. However, 35% of Canadians would rather spend money to support sustainability than change their behaviour, including 57% of men aged 18-34.

Reducing waste is the number one agreed upon impactful decision to boost sustainability (61%) and 76% of consumers have used reusable shopping bags at the grocery store, in the last six months.

Much lower down on the list of impactful sustainable actions are driving less (29%), investing in a more efficient home (22%), eating less meat (20%) and using ‘all-natural’ products (17%). Similarly, 23% of respondents claim they have changed their diet or driven an eco-friendly vehicle (10%) in the last six months.