Dreaming of a green Christmas: over half of UK adults are thinking about a more environmentally-friendly Christmas

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New research from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) reveals that over half (53%) of UK adults who celebrate Christmas think it is important to do so in a more environmentally-friendly way this year.

The research also reveals consumers are expecting more action and communication from brands during the festive period, with over three fifths (64%) of respondents wanting companies to be more transparent about the impact Christmas products and services have on the environment.

Promisingly, increasing green action does not come at a price for businesses. 45% of respondents are willing to spend more money to have an environmentally-friendly Christmas, highlighting the opportunity for companies to invest in sustainable festive products. Younger consumers (18-34 year olds) are most willing, with three fifths (60%) saying they would pay extra for eco-friendly gifts, compared to just 37% of those aged 55 and over.

Gemma Butler, marketing director and expert in sustainable marketing at CIM says: “Whilst we all love to share gifts with the ones we love, the environmental challenges facing society aren’t put on pause during the festive period – if anything we should be even more aware as we go into the season that feeds our unhealthy relationship with consumption.

It’s clear from our research that consumers are increasingly conscious of the impact the festivities and its associated consumerism is having on the planet, and they’re expecting companies to be more transparent about it too.

It’s time for brands to step up and rethink how we can celebrate the magic of Christmas without leaving a mountain of waste behind.”

Changing consumer behaviour

Lack of action from brands is leading to many consumers taking matters into their own hands by seeking out more sustainable festive options for themselves:

  • Two fifths (41%) are reusing Christmas decorations rather than buying new ones
  • Over a fifth (22%) are buying from local businesses
  • One quarter (26%) are using a plastic reusable Christmas tree rather than buying a real tree

In fact, only a quarter (24%) reveal they are not changing their behaviour to celebrate in a more environmentally friendly way this year.

Excessive packaging
The research also explores consumers’ views on how much packaging companies use.

The vast majority (82%) of UK adults agree companies use too much when delivering or selling in-store products. Additionally, 78% want to see more being done by large companies to promote sustainable packaging, up 16 percentage points from last year.

The issue of over-packaging appears to influence consumers’ shopping habits too – 30% said receiving an online order with excess packaging has put them off ordering from the same company again, whilst 34% prefer click and collect services that save on carbon emissions associated with home deliveries.

The findings show that consumer’s behaviour towards packaging and recycling has also changed.

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In 2020, 70% of survey respondents recycled excess packaging and 12% kept it to package their own gifts. This has increased to 76% and 25% respectively over the last 12 months.

Encouragingly consumers believe brands are starting to make headway when it comes to recyclability, with over two fifths of respondents (42%) saying brands use more sustainable packaging nowadays compared to five years ago.

When looking at specific companies, nearly half (48%) of respondents label Amazon as the worst offender for excess packaging, a slight decrease from 52% in 2020. Tesco also drops from 11% in 2020 to 9% this year.

Butler continues: “Consumers are far more switched on when it comes to the challenges of excessive packaging, especially plastics, and today’s findings show it’s having an impact on brand association. Companies that therefore refuse to address their product packaging impacts risk damaging not only the planet, but their reputation too.

As ever, the responsibility should lie not entirely with the consumer – companies need to continue to take the lead in developing sustainable solutions and work closely with their marketing teams in communicating these initiatives, both informing and educating consumers and driving more responsible behaviours across all parts of the stakeholder chain.”

The latest findings reinforce earlier research from CIM which reveals that recent adverse weather headlines and social conversations about climate change made nearly half (49%) of UK adults consider how they can adapt their behaviours to be more sustainable in their day-to-day lives.

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