Sustainable consumption: When conviction transform habits

Sustainableconsumption: Whenconviction transformhabits


Sustainable consumption: When conviction transform habits

A growing number of consumers are turning away from hyper-consumerism towards more responsible modes of consumption that are more in line with their values. From food to cosmetics, clothing and tourism, all sectors are subject to this change – and companies can use this as an opportunity to prove that conviction and consumption can go hand-in-hand. Indeed, they have a major role to play in meeting challenges such as reaching the net zero objective by 2050. We asked Thomas Lemoine, co-founder of Les Saisonniers – “farmers’ supermarkets” that promote local products and producers – to tell us more about these new, more inspired consumers, and how companies have the power to inspire them in return by putting forward a more responsible production model.

Europe is taking concrete steps towards sustainable consumption

When it comes to food and cosmetics, consumers seem to be taking the matter into their own hands. By looking into the products they use and buy thanks to applications such as Yuka, they are setting the tone for the kind of offerings they want to find on store shelves – and sending brands a clear message.

They are also increasingly keen on seasonal and local products (that are less polluting,) as well as vegetarianism: according to an FAO study, 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions are linked to meat production[1]. Throughout Europe, more and more consumers are adopting a 100% plant-based diet – or a flexitarian one – as they become more conscious of topics such as pollution, sustainable consumption and animal welfare. The proportion of flexitarian consumers has shot up to 20% in France, 23% in Spain, and 26% in Germany[2].

Food cooperatives are also growing: La Ruche qui dit Oui! counts nearly 1,200 outlets throughout Europe, offering products directly from producers and promoting responsible purchasing. Thomas Lemoine believes that it is important to “connect cities to their countryside, and give producers the chance to sell their products via a short food supply chain, so that they can get paid fairly.” This reconnection to a more local, thoughtful and less polluting consumption model participates in the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions[3].

These French initiatives echo other actions adopted by European neighbors. For example, Germany is committed to democratizing collaborative consumption: companies and individuals alike can sponsor vineyards or beehives to help local producers finance their production or equipment[4]. When it comes to everyday actions, consignment (“Pfand” in German) for glass and plastic bottles is widely democratized, and the initiative will soon extend to cans[5]. These actions are all part of an effort to reduce and recycle waste – a key issue to achieve the environmental transition to which Europe is committed.

Sustainable consumption also includes anti-waste initiatives. Lemoine shares concrete actions that can make one’s consumption more responsible – and have already been adopted by Les Saisonniers: “we sell baskets of ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables at reduced prices, using platforms such as TooGoodToGo, and have set up partnerships with nonprofits and food banks to donate downgraded or unsold products.” These practices contribute to establishing a sharing economy – or even a “gifting economy”. In doing so, consumption becomes meaningful as well as a way to express one’s values on a daily basis.

Everyday purchases are also becoming political statements. Clothing, furniture, household appliances: consumers are turning to specialized brands to buy better – and sometimes less. Thanks to second-hand marketplaces, reconditioned appliances and vintage furniture, brand new items are no longer necessarily the first choice.

The travel industry has also ventured down a greener path through new ways of traveling like slow travel, micro-adventures, and ethical tourism. Vacations are becoming an opportunity to display and strengthen responsible commitments – even outside the home.

How are companies adapting to this new consumption model?

Companies have a role to play in meeting consumer expectations: they can offer fairer remuneration to producers, source a more local selection of products, set up partnerships with NGOs that act directly in the field… In short, actions that can be implemented to align with consumers’ values, and motivate actors who are not yet convinced by these initiatives that they are beneficial to society as a whole. Companies are a driving force for change to spread this model. For example, in Europe, Denmark has become a recognized leader in environmental protection. There, bulk buying has become a habit, helping to reduce food waste by 25%[6] – and demonstrating why it is important for food companies to offer this type of product. The country has also committed to having 50% of its energy production come from renewable sources by 2050[7].

Thomas Lemoine emphasizes that offering local products benefits both companies and consumers, creating a “virtuous circle” of better consumption: “local products limit logistics and transport costs, which inevitably has an impact on the final price. The producer benefits from higher rates, and the consumer from cheaper prices.”

Finally, it is important to understand that consumers are increasingly informed on these issues, and ever more savvy about greenwashing. Their expectations are therefore becoming more and more precise: they want brands to go beyond political restrictions or objectives, so they can set an example and participate actively in the environmental transition.