How Consumers Contribute to Sustainability: Facts and Tips

How can ethical consumers contribute to sustainability? Read on to learn about consumers’ significant impact on creating a sustainable and environmentally friendly consumer market.

By Paige Isgar-Fisher

The growing environmental issues we face today require new strategies in our consumer and business lifestyles to overcome and combat. Experts across the globe are urging us to make drastic changes, and many are taking these pleas to heart and actively changing their shopping habits and brand loyalty. 

Now more than ever, businesses must prioritize greener business practices to remain relevant and competitive in a society undergoing a shift in consumer behavior. Implementing sustainable business logistics, reducing waste, and pursuing recycled and sustainable packaging are just a few ways to gain customer loyalty and support in this changing environment. 

How Consumers Contribute to Sustainability: Sustainable label by glasses on fabric

How Consumers Contribute to Sustainability


New research has shown that support for sustainable business practices is growing significantly in developed and developing countries. This momentum shift indicates that many consumers believe that brands hold as much responsibility for positive change as the government. 

A recent global report published by The Economist Intelligence Unit, commissioned by the WWF, showed a massive 71% increase in online searches surrounding sustainable goods across the globe over the past five years. 

This ‘eco-awakening’ is not only occurring in high-income countries but is a strong theme in emerging and developing economies. Since 2016, over 159 million people have signed various online petitions in support of preserving dwindling nature and global resources.  

The Gen Z Effect

Despite the millennial generation still being the dominant consumer bracket, the rise of the Gen Z influence will quickly overtake their purchasing power. By 2030, Gen Z will represent 27% of the world’s income, surpassing millennials by 2031. 

A recent study revealed that the Gen Z generation is the largest growing support base for brands that support values and causes that align with their own, predominantly surrounding sustainability and reversing the harmful effects of climate change. 

They have created a new precedent for the generations to come, highlighting the importance of businesses shifting to greener business practices to remain relevant and competitive. The Gen Z effect has been observed across many different sectors, including government, education, and social issues. 

"LESS" on a window

Money Speaks

Now more than ever, the message to large companies and brands is clear. Consumers worldwide are shifting their loyalty towards businesses that share their values and conscious efforts to choose more sustainable and greener retail markets. 

Consumers are switching products and services away from businesses they believe violate their values or contradict their ethos. This creates many market opportunities for those willing and ready to respond with eco-friendly products, services, and public support for environmental protection. 

The global lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic allowed many people to reevaluate their daily habits and overall impact. This shifting preference is causing entire industries to change, and no market or sector is unaffected. 

In a recent study conducted by First Insight and the Baker Retailing Center at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, two-thirds of consumers claimed they would pay more for sustainable products from brands that are committed to making significant and real change. Furthermore, only 56% of consumers would rank a brand name as an essential factor in their purchasing choice, highlighting ethical business practices as a stronger influence.

Word of Mouth

Social media and influencers’ quick and substantial rise contributes to the Gen Z effect. Never before have social media accounts and personalities had a more significant influence on the purchasing habits of their followers and supporters. 

As a generation born into an online-dominated society, the Gen Z community (and the millennial community to some extent) is utilizing this popular tool to spread their beliefs and messages surrounding causes they are passionate about. Access to this information is easier than ever, elevating the power of word of mouth and its driving force to direct mass amounts of customers to or from certain companies and brands. 

Clothes on a rack with a sign: Being naked in the #1 mist sustainable option. We're #2.

Additional Eco-Friendly Tips

As consumers, we have plenty of opportunities to further expand our efforts in being more conscious of sustainability and greener purchasing habits. They are easy to implement and can significantly reduce our environmental impact. 

We can reduce packaging by bringing our own reusable bags while shopping to eliminate the need for single-use plastic bags and avoid overly packaged products. Furthermore, buying in bulk can reduce the frequency and need for travel. If available, make use of refill stores in your area, which allow you to bring in your own glass jars, jugs, and bottles to stock up on items like water, pasta, nuts, spices, cleaning products, and cosmetics. 

Suppose you use paper towels frequently around your home for cleaning. Switch them for clothes that can be washed and reused as needed. It is also encouraged to replace plastic food wraps with beeswax, which is reusable and can help to reduce unnecessary waste. Additionally, choose biodegradable cleaning products, which have fewer negative impacts on the environment and won’t poison water sources and soil.  

Being more aware of the source of your food is vital to ensure you are shopping and purchasing food products that are sustainably and ethically sourced. When possible, stick to organic and certified items. 

Finally, assess your overall energy usage and make cuts where possible. Unplug appliances that are not in use, wash clothes with cold water and avoid multiple loads, use a drying rack, and switch lightbulbs for energy-saving varieties.