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The Rise of Sustainable and Ethical Consumption

10 June 2024 • 7 min read
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In recent years, a powerful trend has been sweeping across consumer markets worldwide: the growing demand for sustainable and ethical products. This shift in consumer behaviour isn’t just a fad. It’s a fundamental change driven by concerns about environmental impact, social responsibility and ethical business practices.

Consumer preferences

A significant indicator of the shift towards sustainable and ethical consumption is consumer preference. According to a 2020 McKinsey US consumer sentiment survey, a staggering 60% of consumers in the United States and the United Kingdom are willing to pay more for sustainable and eco-friendly products. This statistic speaks volumes about the increasing importance consumers are placing on sustainability when making purchasing decisions.

A recent study by NielsenIQ found that 78% of US consumers say that a sustainable lifestyle is important to them. Source.

Environmental impact

The urgency of addressing environmental issues such as climate change, deforestation and pollution has never been more apparent. Consumers are becoming more aware of the consequences of their consumption habits and actively seeking products that minimise harm to the planet. Studies have shown that eco-friendly materials, such as organic cotton, recycled plastics and sustainably sourced wood, are gaining popularity as consumers prioritise products with lower environmental footprints.

Asked which of the packaging materials widely used today is the least environmentally friendly, 77% of respondents said plastic. Paper was considered the most environmentally friendly by 55% of participants: Source.

Transparency in the supply chain

Another key aspect of the shift towards sustainable consumption is the demand for transparency in the supply chain. Consumers want to know where their products come from, how they’re made, and the impact they have on people and the planet. Companies that embrace transparency and provide clear information about their sourcing and manufacturing practices are gaining trust and loyalty from increasingly discerning consumers.

Participants [of the Survey] ranked the chemical industry lowest in terms of communicating how its products affect the environment, with 72% stating they were “not very confident or not confident at all.” Source.

Circular business models

The concept of a circular economy, where products and materials are reused, recycled, or repurposed to minimise waste, is gaining traction as a viable solution to the environmental challenges we face. Brands are adopting circular business models, redesigning products for longevity, and implementing take-back programs to ensure responsible disposal at the end of a product’s life cycle. This approach reduces waste and creates new opportunities for innovation and economic growth.

Circular business models are a strategic approach to business that aims to minimise waste and maximise the efficient use of resources by closing the loop of production and consumption. Unlike traditional linear business models, where products are made, used and then disposed of, circular business models emphasise sustainability and aim to create a continuous cycle where materials and products are reused, recycle, or repurposed.

There are several key elements to circular business models

Design for durability and reusability. Companies design products with longevity in mind, using durable materials and construction techniques that prolong the lifespan of the product. Additionally, products are designed to be easily disassembled and components are interchangeable, facilitating repair, refurbishment and reuse.

Resource efficiency. Circular business models prioritise resource efficiency throughout the product life cycle. This includes using renewable or recycled materials, reducing energy consumption during production and minimising waste generation.

Take-back and reverse logistics. Companies implement take-back programs where customers can return products at the end of their life cycle. These products are then refurbished, remanufactured or recycled to extract value from materials and components. Reverse logistics ensure that returned products are efficiently transported and processed.

Product as a Service (PaaS). Instead of selling products outright, companies offer them as a service, where customers pay for access to the product rather than ownership. This encourages manufacturers to design durable products that can be reused or recycled at the end of their life cycle, while also fostering long-term relationships with customers.

Collaborative consumption. Circular business models promote sharing and collaborative consumption, where multiple users can access and utilise a product or service. This reduces the overall demand for new products and encourages resource-sharing among consumers.

Waste reduction and recycling. Companies prioritise waste reduction and recycling by incorporating recycled materials into new products, implementing closed-loop recycling systems, and partnering with waste management facilities to ensure responsible disposal of materials.

Overall, circular business models represent a paradigm shift towards a more sustainable and regenerative approach to business that benefits both companies and the environment. By closing the loop of production and consumption, businesses can create value while minimising their environmental footprint and contributing to a more sustainable future.


The evidence is clear. The demand for sustainable and ethical products is on the rise, driven by informed and conscientious consumers who are increasingly aware of the impact of their purchasing decisions. From eco-friendly materials to transparent supply chains and circular business models, brands prioritising sustainability meet consumer expectations and position themselves for long-term success in a rapidly changing market landscape.

Sustainability and ethics will continue to be defining factors shaping consumer behaviour and business practices. Embracing these principles isn’t just a moral imperative. It’s also a smart business strategy in an increasingly conscious and discerning market. The data speaks for itself, and the time for sustainable and ethical consumption is now.


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