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Three-quarters of UK consumers admit to not being able to identify when a brand is ‘greenwashing'

  • Consumer research by online investment service, Wealthify, also found that 70 per cent believe that brands commit to causes to appear ‘greener’

A survey has revealed that three-quarters of UK adults (78 per cent) admit to not being able to identify when a brand is ‘greenwashing’*.

Only 37 per cent of 18–24-year-olds said they could tell the difference compared to just 6 per cent of those aged 65+.

When asked if people think brands commit to causes to appear ‘woke’ or ‘greener’, on average 70 per cent agreed with this. Those aged 18-24 agreed with this the most (79 per cent).

These are a few of the findings from a new survey that has unpicked the ethical and sustainable shopping habits of English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish consumers. More results have been included below.

The survey was carried out by online investment service, Wealthify, a subsidiary of the Aviva group, which provides customers with the option to invest in organisations committed to having a positive impact on society and the environment.

The survey also found that when it comes to deciding on what’s most important for people when shopping for ethical brands, one in five (21 per cent) deem brands being committed to a cause beyond their own business agenda as important. Cruelty-free products (59 per cent), zero waste solutions (43 per cent), locally and ethically sourced materials (43 per cent) and being a Living Wage employer who values the health and wellbeing of its staff (38 per cent) are top of the list.

It has also been revealed that two in five of us (42.2 per cent) feel societal pressure to be more ethical, with 64 per cent of Gen Z’s feeling social pressure compared to just 27 per cent of over 65’s. Over three quarters (76 per cent) of us believe that supporting ethical and sustainable brands in our day-to-day life is important.

Promisingly for the future, 18–24-year-olds consider supporting ethical and sustainable brands the most important (87 per cent) compared with those aged 65+ who deem it the least important (67 per cent).

Michelle Pearce-Burke, COO at Wealthify, said: “We know that conscious consumerism is on the rise and see this reflected in the investment decisions being made by an increasing number of our customers. Coronavirus has also encouraged many of us to shop more locally and ethically than in pre-pandemic times.

“Our survey has established that this is the case – most of us do believe that supporting ethical and sustainable brands in our day-to-day lives is important. What’s interesting is that the majority of us are unable to identify if a brand is ‘greenwashing’ and many of us agree that brands commit to causes to appear ‘greener’.

“This, paired with the fact that many people continue to find ethical and sustainable products too expensive to make them part of their day-to-day lives, indicates a potential need for more education around what ethical and sustainable brands stand for, and the value for money people receive in spending more on a more sustainable product.”

Interestingly, the survey found that being ethical is most important (80 per cent) to those who belong to the lowest household incomes of £5,001 - £10,000. This was followed by those within the household brackets of £35,001 - £40,000 (78 per cent) and £70,001+ (78 per cent).

The survey also unveiled:

  • London (84 per cent) and Scotland (82 per cent) are the regions that view ethical and sustainable shopping as the most important. Yorkshire and the Humber (71 per cent) and Wales (71 per cent) consider it the least important.
  • Over half of us (53 per cent) view ethical and sustainable products too expensive which holds us back from being more ethical in our daily lives and one in four (25 per cent) admitted to not knowing where to start looking for ethical brands.
  • 1 in 4 (27 per cent) 18–24-year-olds rely on a celebrity endorsement to determine a brand’s ethical and sustainable credentials. One in four (29 per cent) 65+ year-olds rely on word of mouth. Most of all age groups are most likely to rely on a trusted source such as Ethical Consumer or the Good On You App.
  • 1 in 4 (24 per cent) do not feel it’s important to support ethical and sustainable brands in day-to-day life. 32 per cent of those aged over 65 say it’s not important at all compared to just 12 per cent of 18–24-year-olds, demonstrating a significant generational divide when it comes to conscious consumerism.
  • 29 per cent said that shopping for ethical products isn’t at the forefront of their minds (more so men at 33 per cent vs 26 per cent females) and 23 per cent said that the stores they shop in don’t offer the range of ethical products they’d want.
  • Food & Drink (53 per cent), Energy providers (20 per cent), Beauty (19 per cent), Sustainable Living (13 per cent) and Fashion (13 per cent) are deemed the ethical brand niches people spend the most on each month.
  • When it comes to gender split, women buy into ethical beauty products more than men (24 per cent vs 14 per cent), while men spend the most on food & drink (55 per cent vs 50 per cent).
  • Affordable products are more important to woman (50 per cent) over men (40 per cent). Affordable sustainable and ethical products are most important to those aged 45+.
  • £45.50 is the average amount people spend each month on ethical products across the country.
  • Those in Northern Ireland spend the most (£53.52) and those in Yorkshire and the Humber the least (£37.54)
  • Those with a household income of £20,001 to £25,000 spend on average the most each month on ethical products (£49.25)
  • 18–24-year-olds spend £47.99 compared to those 65+ at £42.77
  • £7.49 is how much more men spend on ethical/sustainable products each month than women (£49.31 vs £41.82 for women).
  • 56 per cent would be willing to pay more for a product that is sustainable. Women would be more willing than men (58 per cent vs 53 per cent) and 18-24-year-olds more (77 per cent) than 65+ (43 per cent)

Michelle Pearce-Burke, COO at Wealthify, continued: “The significant increase we have seen in customers opting for our ethical investment plans over the past year has meant that their uptake is now outstripping our standard investment plans by almost two to one. What’s more, investment returns on our ethical plans last year actually outperformed our original investments, demonstrating the added value of consuming, purchasing or investing ethically.”

Wealthify has created an ethical shopping and investment guide to help consumers navigate living more sustainably. This includes two league tables; one that features growing ethical businesses that are going from strength to strength and one focused on big brands that inspire when it comes to sustainability activities.

Notes to Editors:

The survey captured a national representative of 2,000 UK Adults and was carried out 10-12th March 2021.

* Greenwashing is when a company spends more time and money on marketing themselves as environmentally friendly than on minimizing their environmental impact.

About Wealthify

Launched in April 2016, Wealthify provides a simple approach to investing. Available online or via app, customers choose how much they want to invest and their preferred investment style, with ethical investment options also available. Wealthify then builds and manages an investment plan on their behalf. Its aim is to make investing easy and accessible, inspiring anyone to build their future wealth.

Wealthify is an independently run subsidiary of Aviva and boasts numerous consumer, FinTech, and investment award wins, a 5* Defaqto badge of honour and is proudly is rated as Excellent on Trust Pilot.

Wealthify launched its range of ethical investment plans in August 2018 to allow clients to invest in organisations committed to having a positive impact on society and the environment.

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