COVID-19 Consumer Survey: Sustainability

In our December 2020 omnibus survey, we compare consumer trends during the COVID-19 pandemic against May, August, and October 2020 results. We surveyed consumers from the UK and US, with a deep dive into sustainability trends and behaviours.

Comparing results from earlier in the year, UK and US consumers are now expecting little to no change in their income at all. Online shopping became increasingly popular during COVID-19 (especially in the UK) but this has experienced a decline over the past month.

In terms of sustainability, most consumers express a degree of concern regarding the sourcing and composition of their products.

Here are the top trends from December:

Online shopping declines

With lockdowns forcing consumers to stay at home, online shopping in the UK and US steadily increased from May 2020, peaking in October 2020. December saw a decline in online shopping in both countries. The UK saw drops across all three spending categories, whilst the US saw its largest drop in food delivery.

Online shopping decline

Fewer changes to income

Both the UK and US saw their biggest decline in consumer incomes in May 2020. In the UK, the number of consumers facing income reductions steadily declined across the months and now most are expecting no change. In the US, this number fluctuated but also declined to its lowest point since May in October.

Consumer income during COVID-19

Consumers willing to pay more for sustainable products

Consumers in the US and UK are attracted to sustainably sourced products, with most willing to pay up to 10% more for them. Both countries show similar results for pricing tiers and 1 in 4 would not pay extra.

Consumer online shopping during COVID-19

Environmental friendliness of peak concern

Respondents were asked to choose up to 3 of the most important aspects of sustainable sourcing. Respondents from both the US and UK unanimously think that avoiding destruction to the natural environment is the most important aspect. Protecting vulnerable and endangered species and lowering greenhouse gases were of the next importance in both countries.

Sustainable sourcing aspects

Suppliers deemed most responsible for sustainable sourcing

UK and US consumers largely agree that suppliers should be held the most responsible for ensuring products are sustainably sourced. There were a few reasons for this, including that suppliers are the first step in the supply chain, they are the ones who create the product, and that they dictate product requirements to supply to the market.

Sustainable sourcing responsibility

Sustainability issues vary in importance and impact for consumers

There are many sustainability issues front of mind for consumers in today’s environmentally conscious landscape. With such a large number of topics to consider, companies must prioritise certain areas to enact meaningful change.

We used MaxDiff questions to assess which sustainability issues consuemrs consider the most urgent to address, based on their importance and impact:

  • Low importance, low impact = least urgent.

  • High importance, high impact = most urgent.

UK consumers believe that reducing greenhouse gases is the most important and impactful to sustainability…

UK sustainability issues impact & importance MaxDiff

…whilst US consumers want to prioritise lowering pollution.

USA sustainability issues impact & importance MaxDiff

Other high priority issues across both countries include:

  • Creating biodegradable packaging

  • Creating recycled materials packaging

  • Chemical free products

  • Limiting impact on wildlife

COVID-19 & Sustainability Consumer Survey: December full results

Download a copy of COVID-19 & Sustainability Consumer Survey: December survey results.


Written on 11 February 2021 by:
Edward Teh image
Edward Teh
Research Assistant
Catherine Chipeta image
Catherine Chipeta
Content Writer

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