Dreaming of a Green Christmas: Over half of UK adults are thinking about a more environmentally-friendly Christmas

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. This compares to just 34 per cent who think it is important to have a big celebration to make up for missing out last year as a result of the pandemic. 

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 – under half (45%) of respondents are even 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 per cent 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

This 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. It finds that the vast majority (82%) of UK adults agree companies use too much when delivering or selling in-store products. Additionally, 78 per cent 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 per cent said receiving an online order with excess packaging has put them off ordering from the same company again, whilst 34 per cent 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. In 2020, just 70 per cent of survey respondents recycled excess packaging and 12 per cent kept it to package their own gifts, however this has increased to 76 per cent and 25 per cent 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 per cent in 2020. Tesco also drops from 11 per cent in 2020 to 9 percent 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 not lie 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.

For marketers looking to upskill in the area, the Chartered Institute of Marketing offers two programmes: ‘The Sustainable Marketer’ course providing marketers with the opportunity to rethink how their business approaches sustainability whilst helping to leverage it as a source of brand loyalty, competitive advantage and commercial success; and the ‘Sustainable Transformation Programme’ which has been designed to equip marketers and businesses to take the lead in developing transformational sustainable, and responsible business and marketing strategies for their organisation. 

For more information on sustainable marketing and how marketers can drive sustainability change across the business visit the: CIM ‘Sustainable Transformation Hub’.

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