Do you buy less, buy better? Find out in RE:THINKING CONSUMPTION report

RethinkingConsumption

Do you really think we are buying less and at the same time buying better? Which essentially means that we (as in, some of us) have reduced our consumption patterns or reduced what we buy – groceries, clothing, gadgets and what have you. And in the process are buying better quality (read, by paying higher prices) stuff.

It might be true to an extent, but in developing countries, I have my own share of doubts.

Developed countries have the luxury of rethinking their consumption patterns but not Indians.

We are a very social society and what we consume tells upon our status within the community and our peers.

Big fat Indian wedding is getting fatter and fatter every year. People are having surplus incomes and they are splurging on cars, devices, branded clothing, holiday homes and partying it all with increased wine and meat consumption….no, I don’t think Indians are rethinking their consumption patterns.

Or else, how do you explain all MNC’s looking at India or China or Brazil as their next big markets and set up shops here?

But a study like this or like any other can sometimes be mis-leading. Nothing against the organizations conducting it – it’s just the nature of the study as people who take part in it are pretty much aware of such issues. Period. A typical consumer doesn’t even come close to knowing what the S-word (sustainability) even is.

Anyhow, so what is this report?

RE: THINKING CONSUMPTION- Consumers and the future of Sustainability

Developed by BBMG, GlobeScan and SustainAbility, The Regeneration Consumer Study is an online survey of consumer attitudes, motivations and behaviors around sustainable consumption among 6,224 respondents in six major international markets (Brazil, China, Germany, India, United Kingdom and United States).

Key Findings from the Regeneration Consumer Study

  • Consuming less, consuming better
  • Shifting perceptions on price, performance and credibility
  • Collaboration and participation by being a part of the solution
  • “Aspirationals” offer the key to sustainable consumption

The study segments the consumer with a different terminology, but basically mapping out the similar behavior patterns. According to the report’s research, four consumer segments on the sustainability spectrum are seen:

  • Highly commited Advocates – 14%
  • Style and Social Status seeking Aspirationals – 37%
  • Price and performance minded Practicals – 34%
  • Less engaged Indifferents – 16%

My take

Overall the report throws some neat insights about the emerging consumer pattern in their green buying behavior, but what I am a bit skeptical about is the Indian study.  Let’s  see:

  • A typical Indian consumer, as I suggested earlier…is not reading the product ingredients before making a purchase decision. Even if he is, the environmental impact of the product will not be even on the radar – he is doing so, because it’s status
  • The report also indicates that an overwhelming 63% of consumers in developing countries buy products based on their recyclable characteristics, which again may not be true in a typical real case scenario in India.
  • I also doubt the 73% understand what makes products environmentally and socially responsible.
  • And this the big one…81% of people feel a sense of shared responsibility – if that were the case, then a lot of social problems we have today would simply evaporate.

The report also says that India has the second largest “Advocates” consumers for sustainable buying (16%) – I just don’t know who these advocates coud be!

Having observed this, I do agree that…

China with 53%, followed by India (42%) have the largest “Aspirational” consumer segment…

…that tend to buy for style and social status, than for any other reason at all!  And this group, incidentally is the largest segment even in the developed nations.

A number of reports similar to this have previously come out by various organizations. What makes it different from others, is that, it lays down some opportunities for action and also tries to re-engage consumers.

The challenge is how to measure the impacts of these actions? I hope, not by asking the same set of consumers who made this report possible! What do you think?

Know more about The Regeneration Roadmap. Click here to download the 27 page report.

Please leave your comments below as it helps generate some meaningful discussion for change.

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