APAC post-COVID-19 consumer trends will bring re-calibration of sustainability priorities, says GlobalData

The COVID-19 pandemic is transforming the consumers’ attitudes and willingness to respond to environmental challenges and sustainability factor. It has forced consumers in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region to believe that their behaviors, product choices and collective influence can make impactful changes on a global scale, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

GlobalData COVID-19 survey week-8 (12-17 May 2020) shows that almost 38% Australians, 52% Chinese and 56% Indians are always/often influenced by how ethical/environmentally-friendly/socially-responsible the product/service is. This implies that consumers are considering the environmental and ethical implications of their purchases.

Shagun Sachdeva, Consumer Insight Analyst at GlobalData, says: “Environmental and ethical considerations have become a secondary purchase influence for consumers in the APAC, who are more likely to base purchases on trust, value, convenience and health.

“Consumers are not necessarily disregarding broader sustainability issues during the health crisis, but the pandemic has highlighted the need to act with urgency on other matters to mitigate the damage of imminent and future crises. For instance, in case of sustainable packaging, consumers may be more inclined to hygiene-driven features in the short-term, in which consumers may view disposable packaging as positive.

“Post-pandemic, considerations around hygiene and food safety will continue to form packaging preferences, but consumers will expect companies to offer adequate packaging protection without resorting to virgin plastic. More sustainable packaging options such as cardboard boxes or bio-degradable bags will secure consumer adoption.”

Consumers will emerge from the pandemic with a renewed sense of health and environmental consciousness and will more thoughtfully reassess their dependence on animal products. To reduce their environmental footprint, consumers will make more concerted efforts to opt for plant-based food and drink alternatives.

For instance, Nestle has recently expanded its plant-based production capacity in China along with other key players such as Starbucks, KFC, and Cargill, who are betting big on plant-based products. This implies that the conspicuously timed launches will nonetheless help to gauge interest in plant-based products in a post-pandemic retail environment.

Sachdeva adds: “Presently, businesses are struggling to maintain their footing due to COVID-19. In a way, it has also created opportunity for the companies to tackle an expanding range of environmental, social and governance (ESG) challenges and bring sustainability revolution in their future.”

Value-based marketing will also be insufficient in a post-pandemic world. Consumers will expect more substantial demonstrations of efforts by brands to readdress social inequalities. Social justice must be worked into the supply chain through adequate working conditions, fair wages, women’s empowerment, education programs, sustainability initiatives and supply chain transparency.

With a new understanding of what can be achieved when the world collectively acts with urgency and purpose, consumers will assume a greater sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare and will increasingly expect businesses to do the same.

Sachdeva concludes: “While COVID-19 has created some short-term headwinds for sustainability, it has also generated strong tailwinds along, many of which will be longer lasting. However, understandably, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of critical ESG factors and companies, at the same time, are brain-storming to keep sustainability alive while coping with the disaster.”

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