New global iStock research finds an overwhelming shift towards more sustainable consumer practices

Ahead of Earth Day on Friday, iStock, a leading ecommerce platform providing premium images and videos to SMBs, SMEs, creatives and students everywhere, has released research revealing that 94% of people surveyed are personally practicing sustainability. This number peaked in the Spring of 2021 (at 95%), when the UK government announced it would set into law the world’s most ambitious climate change target, cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels.

For the past two years iStock’s creative insights platform Visual GPS, a trusted source of visual guidance within the creative community, captured findings that indicated a level of consistency in people’s commitment towards living a sustainable lifestyle, showing percentages above 90% since the summer of 2020 to 2021. The research has captured the consumer sentiment of over 10,000 individuals around the globe every four months since November 2019.

When breaking down what this commitment looks like, results showed recycling is still considered the most prominent way for consumers to make a positive impact on the planet (73%), followed by reusing, repairing, buying second-hand, using eco-friendly products, and making their homes energy efficient (40%). The lowest interest is on stopping the use of single-use products and making transport choices that reduce the use of petrol and diesel (35%). Only a few (8%) suggested joining associations or advocacy groups or donating to causes or charities that support sustainability and the environment as a way of showing support and commitment to protecting the planet.

However, while people increasingly believe they’ve made personal progress towards living a more sustainable lifestyle, two thirds (64%) say the UK government could be doing more to combat climate change with only one-third (36%) confident that the government is doing everything in their power; 73% believe businesses should take the lead if the government fails to.

“After the launch of Visual GPS two years ago, we have learnt that consumers are expecting businesses of all sizes to take responsibility for improving climate conditions,” said Dr Rebecca Swift, Global Head of Creative Insights at iStock. “Our research also shows that while consumers are carrying out some positive actions in their day-to-day lives, they still lack understanding of how such important issues like climate change impact their daily lives. This represents an opportunity for small businesses and entrepreneurs to show their communities how they are committed to sustainability, how they can support their customers be more sustainable via their offerings and demonstrate the benefits of having a more sustainable lifestyle.”

To support businesses, communicate around sustainability across their marketing channels, iStock’s visual experts have shared three takeaways to keep in mind:

Rethink representations of sustainability: once symbolised by polar bears, solar panels, and icebergs, sustainable imagery is now evolving to include new visuals that feel more impactful for the modern consumer. Although well-known sustainable imagery still proves popular, it’s a good idea to also include visuals that aren’t as obviously tied to the sustainability movement, but still signify it for your more discerning customers.

Make conscious, eco-friendly visual choices: research says 79% of consumers are actively trying to reduce the amount of plastic they use and 53% of them only buy from brands that make an effort to be eco-friendly. Make sure you’re meeting modern standards of sustainability by rethinking how you choose images and videos for every project. Include details such as reusable to-go cups or metal straws to convey your commitment to sustainability and show that you’re taking a thoughtful approach in your environmental efforts.

Help consumers overcome present-day fears by visualising a sustainable future: although 46% of consumers know that they should care more about the environment, that feeling is trumped by convenience. By using aspirational and future-facing imagery, you can support their sustainable efforts and make them feel like they can make a positive impact on the world. Show a wide range of visuals that portray environmentally aware choices, ranging from small lifestyle changes to industries investing in new, innovative technologies and initiatives that’ll lead to sustainability on a large scale. Consumers are twice as likely to agree that a brand is committed to sustainability if they show how people are working and doing their part towards creating a more sustainable future.

See here for visual inspiration for representing sustainability or to explore sustainability-inspired imagery and video, visit https://www.istockphoto.com/.

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