A survey in the lead up to Earth Day (22nd April) has revealed that Generation Z deems supporting ethical and sustainable brands the most important (87%), compared to those aged over 65 (67%).

More than three quarters (78%) of the nation admitted to being unsure or unable to identify if a brand is ‘greenwashing’*.  However, the survey revealed that Generation Z are also the most confident age group to identify brands that are greenwashing (37%). 79% of 18-24 -year-olds believe brands commit to causes to appear ‘woke’ or greener, 9% more than the average national response.

When it comes to feeling societal pressure to be more ethical, Gen Z’s feel this the most. 64% said that they feel pressured, 22% above the national average.

Interestingly, over half (54%) of 18–24-year-olds cite ethical products as too expensive for them to use in day-to-day life, compared with just 42% of over 65’s. 32% of Gen Z’s also admitted to not being sure where to start looking for ethical brands.

These are a few of the findings from a new survey that has unpicked the ethical and sustainable shopping habits of English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish consumers. More results have been included below.

The survey was carried out by online investment service, Wealthify, a subsidiary of the Aviva group, which provides customers with the option to invest in organisations committed to having a positive impact on society and the environment. It comes ahead of Earth Day on 22nd April, which aims to raise awareness of global action for the good of the planet’s environment.

Michelle Pearce-Burke, COO at Wealthify, said: “We know that conscious consumerism is on the rise. Coronavirus has encouraged many of us to shop more locally and ethically than in pre-pandemic times. We also see this reflected in the investment decisions being made by an increasing number of our customers.

“Our survey has established that there is a clear generational divide in young people caring most for the planet, but regardless of people’s demographic cohort, there remains scepticism around how a brand presents itself and the causes a brand is true to.”

The survey also revealed: 

  • London (84%) and Scotland (82%) are the regions that deem ethical and sustainable shopping as the most important. Yorkshire and the Humber (71%) and Wales (71%) consider it the least important.
  • Being ethical is most important (80%) to those who belong to the lowest household incomes of £5,001 – £10,000. This was followed by those within the household brackets £35,001 – £40,000 (78%) and £70,001+ (78%) brackets.
  • 1 in 4 (27%) 18–24-year-olds rely on a celebrity endorsement to determine a brand’s ethical and sustainable credentials. One in four (29%) 65+ year-olds rely on word of mouth. The majority of all age groups are most likely to rely on a trusted source such as Ethical Consumer or the Good On You App.
  • 1 in 4 (24%) do not feel it’s important to support ethical and sustainable brands in day-to-day life. 32% of those over 65 say it’s not important at all compared to just 12% of 18–24-year-olds, demonstrating a significant generational divide when it comes to conscious consumerism.
  • 29% said that shopping for ethical products isn’t at the forefront of their minds (more so men at 33% vs 26% females) and 23% said that the stores they shop in don’t offer the range of ethical products they’d want.
  • Cruelty-free products (59%), Zero waste solutions (43%), Locally and ethically source materials (43%) and being a Living Wage employer who values the health and wellbeing of its staff (38%) are deemed the most important factors to UK consumers when choosing which ethical brands to shop with.
  • Affordable products are more important to woman (50%) over men (40%). Affordable sustainable and ethical products are most important to those aged 45+.
  • Food & Drink (53%), Energy providers (20%), Beauty (19%), Sustainable Living (13%) and Fashion (13%) are deemed the ethical brand niches people spend the most on each month.
  • When it comes to gender split, women buy into ethical beauty products more than men (24% vs 14%), while men spend the most on food & drink (55% vs 50%).
  • £45.50 is the average amount people spend each month on ethical products across the country.
  • Those in Northern Ireland spend the most (£53.52) and those in Yorkshire and the Humber the least (£37.54)
  • Those with a household income of £20,001 to £25,000 spend on average the most each month on ethical products (£49.25)
  • 18–24-year-olds spend £47.99 compared to those 65+ at £42.77
  • £7.49 is how much more men spend on ethical/sustainable products each month than women (£49.31 vs £41.82 for women).
  • 56% would be willing to pay more for a product that is sustainable. Women would be more willing than men (58% vs 53%) and 18–24-year-olds more (77%) than 65+ (43%)

Michelle Pearce-Burke, COO at Wealthify, continued: “The significant increase we have seen in customers opting for our ethical investment plans over the past year has meant that their uptake is now outstripping our standard investment plans by almost two to one. What’s more, investment returns on our ethical plans last year actually outperformed our original investments, demonstrating the added value of consuming, purchasing or investing ethically.”

To mark Earth Day, Wealthify has created an ethical shopping and investment guide to help consumers navigate living more sustainably. This includes two league tables; one that features growing ethical businesses that are going from strength to strength and one focused on big brands that inspire when it comes to sustainability activities.

Wealthify will also be planting one tree for every new Ethical investment Plan opened during Earth Day week