Consumer Desire for Sustainable Lifestyles Hindered by Inconvenience and High Costs in Emerging Asian Markets

3 mins read

31 July 2023 

Independent research commissioned by Alibaba Group revealed that sustainable practices are hindered by inconvenience and high costs.

According to the latest independent research commissioned by Alibaba Group, a vast majority of consumers (73%) express a strong desire to adopt more sustainable lifestyles, with the highest interest coming from those residing in emerging Asian markets (87%). However, the main obstacles cited for the widespread adoption of sustainable practices are inconvenience and high costs.

The research, titled “The Sustainability Trends Report 2023,” gathered insights from over 14,000 consumers across 14 markets in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Key findings reveal that convenience (53%) and affordability (33%) are crucial factors influencing consumer behaviour towards sustainability. Businesses can play a vital role in promoting sustainable choices by making it easier for consumers to access such options.

Despite the growing interest in sustainability, consumers remain sceptical (38%) about the authenticity of businesses’ claims regarding “sustainable” products, with only 15% expressing complete trust in these claims. Building trust, especially among European consumers, becomes a challenge that businesses need to address.

Liu Wei, Alibaba Group ESG Strategy Lead, emphasises the company’s commitment to tackling the “say-do” gap by reducing inconveniences, expanding sustainable choices, and optimising supply chains to maintain reasonable costs for consumers. He sees sustainable consumption as not only crucial for the environment but also as an opportunity for businesses and the digital economy to thrive sustainably.

In late July, Alibaba published its latest Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Report, disclosing its Scope 3+ decarbonization progress and demonstrating its commitment to carbon emission reduction across its ecosystem.

Alibaba’s efforts in promoting sustainable practices are reflected in its carbon ledger platform, which saw participation from 187 million consumers in carbon emission reduction activities in the 12 months leading to March 31, 2023. Additionally, the platform featured 1.91 million products from 409 brands offering low-carbon friendly products through Tmall and Taobao as of March 2023.

The research highlights that consumers across the globe are embracing sustainability, but there are variations in engagement levels and preferences for sustainable living and shopping among different regions. A significant portion of consumers (76%) expresses interest in learning more about sustainable practices, with particularly high demand in the Philippines (93%), Indonesia (91%), and the UAE (90%).

Approximately half of the consumers surveyed (58%) have already engaged in sustainable practices and feel they are making a substantial personal contribution. Moreover, consumers display openness to learning about sustainable online shopping practices, with an average of 73% expressing interest in receiving more information about sustainable online purchases.

Notably, consumers from emerging Asian markets (88%) are more willing to learn about making sustainable online purchases compared to developed Asian markets (66%) and Europe (66%). Sustainable online shopping preferences also differ across regions, with emerging Asian markets (47%) showing a stronger inclination towards choosing sustainable packaging, while European consumers (47%) tend to prioritise recycling.

Convenience proves to be a significant factor in driving sustainable choices, with half of the consumers stating they would only opt for sustainability if it is convenient. Additionally, a third of consumers (33%) consider sustainability to be unaffordable, with Thailand (84%), UAE (41%), and Spain (37%) reporting the highest concerns regarding affordability.

As businesses play a crucial role in enabling consumers to make sustainable choices, the report outlines the top three ways businesses can promote consumer sustainability: making sustainable products more affordable (61%), reducing single-use plastics and packaging (55%), and offering a wider selection of sustainable products and services (47%).

However, businesses must work diligently to gain consumer trust in their sustainability claims, especially in European markets. The research shows that 23% of consumers express limited trust in businesses’ sustainability claims, with the highest levels of scepticism observed in France (31%), Spain (31%), Germany (30%), and the U.K. (30%). Furthermore, nearly two in five consumers (38%) view businesses’ sustainable products with cynicism, with Thailand (56%), France (48%), and Singapore (47%) exhibiting the highest levels of scepticism.

Liu Wei stresses that building trust requires transparency, commitment, and supporting sustainable practices with data, fostering empathy between businesses and consumers on their shared journey towards sustainability. The “Sustainability Trends Report 2023,” commissioned by Alibaba Group, highlights that a majority of consumers (73%) want to adopt sustainable lifestyles, especially in emerging Asian markets (87%).

However, inconvenience and high costs are major barriers. The report emphasises that businesses can help by making sustainable choices more accessible. Consumer trust in businesses’ sustainability claims remains low (38%), particularly in Europe. Alibaba is committed to reducing inconveniences and offering sustainable options. Consumers globally are interested in sustainability but have different preferences. Businesses can promote sustainability by offering affordable options and reducing single-use plastics. Transparency and commitment are essential to build consumer trust.

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