A small majority of people believe there is still time to make a difference and slow global heating, a survey of consumer attitudes in 16 countries reveals.
People aged 55 and over believe most strongly that their behaviour can make a positive difference to the environment. People in Brazil, Spain, Canada, Italy, China and Thailand are the most optimistic that if we act now there is still time to save the planet, the survey by Mintel found.
On average, 54% of those who were surveyed agreed that there was time to save the planet, and 51% believed their behaviour could make a positive difference to the environment.
Japan was the most pessimistic: only 15% of people questioned believed their behaviour could make a difference and only 35% believed there was time to save the planet.
The survey took place in 16 countries: Brazil, India, China, Japan, the UK, the US, Italy, Spain, South Korea, Australia, Thailand, Canada, Ireland, France, Poland and Germany.
It found that consumers wanted companies to be clear about the environmental impact of their products so they could make an informed choice about whether to buy them or not.
The survey found that 47% of people wanted labelling showing the environmental impact in terms such as amount of CO2 emitted in production, and 42% were looking for information measuring impact in understandable terms such as litres of water used or distance travelled.
It found that 41% wanted to see recognisable certification to prove their standards, such as B Corp status, awarded to companies that sign up to a legal declaration to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment.
The survey also revealed differing views on who was to blame for global heating. Consumers were more likely to think their own country was suffering from climate change than causing it, according to the research.
An average of 44% of consumers from the 16 nations said the country where they lived was suffering from climate change, while an average of 33% believed that the country where they live was contributing to climate change.
People in Italy (20%), Brazil (21%), South Korea (24%), and Spain (29%) were the least likely to believe their country was contributing to climate change. Those in the UK (44%), Germany (45%), the US (46%) and Canada (51%) were the most likely to believe their nation was culpable.
The International Energy Agency highlighted the importance of the public understanding that their own consumption is integral to reducing emissions in its roadmap to net zero in May. It said more than half of the cumulative emissions reductions required to reach net zero were linked to consumer choices and behaviours.
Richard Cope, a senior trends consultant at Mintel Consulting, said: “The good news is that in most countries a small majority still believe we have time for redemption, and where there is that optimism it is closely related to a sense that consumer behaviours can make the difference.”
Despite the evidence of awareness among the buying public of climate responsibility and the impact of individual choices, the survey also revealed that in the 16 nations many individuals wanted solutions to make their lives easier, but which would put the planet more at risk.
It also found that as temperatures rise around the world, increasing numbers of people are planning to install air conditioning, which drives up carbon emissions.
“Global warming creates a vicious circle by increasing demand for air conditioning, which then uses more energy,” said Mintel’s report.