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Climate Change Tops Australians’ Environmental Concerns

30 August 2022 by Mintel


Climate Change Tops Australians’ Environmental Concerns, while Simple and Frugal Actions Dominate Sustainable Behaviours

– Climate change (45%), plastic pollution (37%) and air quality (28%) are Australian consumers’ top three environmental concerns.

– 52% say local extreme weather events encourage them to do more to protect the environment.

– Recycling packaging (66%) ranks among consumers’ top three sustainable behaviours.

From droughts to bushfires and floods, Australia has been experiencing extreme and more frequent climate events in recent years, and it follows that consumer engagement in sustainability has deepened. New research from the Mintel Consulting 2022 Sustainability Barometer reveals that 45% of Australian consumers cite climate as a top three environmental concern, followed by plastic pollution (37%) and air quality (28%).

As environmental concerns escalate, the number of consumers who believe we still have time to save the planet if we act now made a significant gain from 42% to 50% between 2021-22*, with more than half (52%) of Australians saying that local extreme weather events (eg flooding, heatwaves) encourage them to personally do more activities to protect the environment.

This desire to help the planet brings with it a feel-good factor as 61% of consumers say doing things that benefit the environment makes them feel happy, while 47% say they have researched their annual carbon footprint (eg with an online calculator or app).

Australians’ sustainable behaviours have also focused on simplicity and frugality. For instance, recycling packaging (66%), buying fewer new clothes (49%), buying products certified to be less harmful to the environment and ‘return and recycle’ schemes (23% respectively) are the top sustainable behaviours over the last 12 months*. Meanwhile, the shift in transport behaviour towards micro-mobility is evident, with 37% saying that they have walked more often instead of taking transport.

When asked about solutions they perceived to have a high-to-moderate positive impact on the environment, consumers are supportive of forestation and conservation projects and investments in renewable energy. For the latter, half (50%) of Australians think governments are most responsible for the use of renewable energy, while 60% would prefer companies to reduce their own carbon emissions rather than use “Carbon Offsetting” programs outside of their own area of business.

The second annual Mintel Consulting Sustainability Barometer features research and insight on consumers’ sustainability attitudes, behaviours and purchase preferences across 16 countries*. It offers recommendations for companies and brands based on best-in-class innovations, communications and campaigns.

Richard Cope, Senior Trends Consultant, Mintel Consulting, said:

“Climate change continues to be one of the main pressures affecting Australia’s environment. Its impact, exacerbated by the pandemic, inflation, and supply chain disruptions, have given consumers a harsh reality check, hurting their health and wallets and activating them in the process. In the meantime, escalating activism, regulatory reaction and the sheer scale of the challenges ahead and solutions required have educated global consumers enough to sniff out greenwashing campaigns and there’s no going back from that. This means companies will increasingly need to assert—and clearly communicate—the truly impactful actions they are taking to reduce emissions, rather than simply offset them or dip their toes into populist ‘plastic free’ campaigns. This growing awareness around resource inputs and emission and waste outputs will also spell the end for ‘environmentally friendly’ as a credible marketing term.

“Our research shows that consumers globally, including Australians, continue to see recycling and mitigating waste as important sustainable behaviours. This tells us that simple, frugal behaviours are the most popular among consumers, which underlines the fact that brands’ sustainability initiatives need to deliver on value and convenience. Looking ahead to 2023, expect to see resource (food, water, money) conservation ascend further up the agenda and the use of economising technology refurbishers and urban peer access sharing economies grow. For consumers, the connections between saving the environment, its resources and their money will strengthen.”

*500 internet users aged 16/18+ across 16 countries were surveyed in March 2021: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, UK, US; 1,000 internet users aged 16/18+ across 16 countries were surveyed in April 2022, with Poland and Ireland replaced by Indonesia and Mexico.

An Executive Summary of the Mintel Consulting Sustainability Barometer 2022 is available for free download here.


This report was contributed by knowledge partner: