Poverty, environment, human rights and diversity top issues and concerns of consumers

- November 26, 2021 4 MIN READ

Research reveals the pandemic has provoked Australians to be more socially responsible. Toluna’s annual Consumer Global Barometer Study shows an increase in concern by Australians on the issues of poverty, human rights and the environment.

More than half (55 per cent) of Australians cited environmental concerns as an important issue to them, closely followed by poverty (48 per cent), human rights (46 per cent), and equality and diversity (40 per cent).

Pandemic raises consciousness on social issues

The pandemic has strongly influenced these sentiments, with 46 per cent of Australians now more concerned about poverty than they were before the pandemic, and 40 per cent more concerned about the environment. Further, 39 per cent are now more concerned about human rights than they were pre-pandemic, with a quarter (27 per cent) now more concerned about equality and diversity (including issues regarding race, gender, and sexuality).

Other values have been affected by the pandemic, too, with Australians now more concerned about health and wellness (51 per cent), sincerity and authenticity (34 per cent), and community support (41 per cent).

Doing the right thing 

Australians aren’t just talking the talk – they feel strongly about taking actions that support their personal values. Over half (59 per cent) say they care strongly about the environmental impact of their behaviours, with 57 per cent stating it’s important that they invest time and care into the decisions they make as a consumer.

Further, there’s a strong emotional payoff by doing the right thing, with 62 per cent reporting they feel satisfied when they make socially responsible choices, and 63 per cent stating that making positive responsible choices can bring emotional comfort.

It’s no surprise then that 45 per cent of Australians like to keep themselves informed about the values and ethics of the brands they buy; with 56 per cent of respondents supporting brands whose values align with their own and 41 per cent avoiding brands that don’t.

“The pandemic has affected Australians in an extraordinary way. Living through a once-in-a-century health crisis has forced us to re-evaluate what’s important, and Australians are now much more socially conscious, with growing concerns about the environment, poverty and human rights issues,” said Sej Patel, Country Director, Toluna, Australia & New Zealand.

Shopping habits 

When buying household items, products, services, and technology, half (51 per cent) of Australians think about whether the brands they’re buying support the ethical issues that are important to them. Further, the same number (51 per cent) of respondents said they would switch to a brand that was actively supporting issues that were important to them. Only 12 per cent of respondents said they wouldn’t switch brands for this reason, with the remaining 37 per cent stating they were unsure.

Taking specific product categories into consideration, 43 per cent of respondents said they’d like to see more food and drink companies supporting ethical issues, closely followed by energy suppliers (43 per cent) and household cleaning brands (38 per cent). Other areas consumers would like to see brands actively supporting ethical issues include banks (33 per cent), technology and electronics brands (36 per cent), personal hygiene (34 per cent), and beauty (32 per cent).

Looking at values specifically, 63 per cent of consumers said it was important to them that brands had strong environmental values, while the majority also said it was important that brands had strong values related to poverty (57 per cent), equality and diversity (58 per cent), and human rights (62 per cent).

Taking action on issues

With environmental issues a top concern, some of the biggest actions consumers are taking to support their values are eco-driven, with 72 per cent making an effort to recycle and 73 per cent doing what they can to reduce food waste. More than half (57 per cent) of respondents reported to sell, re-use or donate unwanted clothes, and 44 per cent stating they make an effort to use sustainable products around the house.

Other actions Australians are taking to support issues that are important to them include:

  • Supporting charities and non-profits – 36%
  • Buying from socially responsible brands and retailers – 34%
  • Buying fair trade or ethically sourced items 27%
  • Using sustainable modes of transport – 22%
  • Using a renewable energy tariff – 20%
  • Donating to food banks – 20%
  • Volunteering – 20%

When it comes to responsibility, most respondents (67 per cent) believe it’s up to Government and local authorities to drive changes that will support key social and ethical issues, such as environmental concerns, poverty, human rights, and equality and diversity. However, they also believe the responsibility lies with consumers (65 per cent) to drive change, in addition to brands (56 per cent) and retailers (54 per cent).

The importance of social media 

For brands, being active on social media and communicating brand values has never been so important. Two thirds (64 per cent) of respondents consider themselves active social media users, with 38 per cent stating they’ve logged in more frequently over the past few months.

When it comes to brand engagement, 66 per cent of Australians believe social media helps them better understand brands, with 60% stating they discover or re-discover brands via social media. Social platforms are where 62 per cent of consumers learn about a brand’s commitment to ethical issues, and where 54% communicate directly with brands.

The majority (65) of respondents say they would like brands to use social media to keep them informed about how they are supporting ethical issues and driving their brand purpose.

“Brands and retailers are now dealing with a very different consumer than they were 18 months ago. Australians are now shopping more consciously and are actively taking the time to research where brands stand on the ethical issues, with the view to switching should they find brands who better align with their values. Now, more than ever, brands need to communicate what they stand for and how they’re supporting ethical and social issues – particularly on social media where consumers are actively looking to find this information,”  Patel concluded.

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