Consumer Behavior Trends: Global Sustainability & Ethics

See how current trends influence perceptions and consumer behavior towards global sustainability and ethics

April 11, 2024 – In today’s world, consumers are increasingly conscious of their impact on the environment and society. Here we highlight some of Innova’s latest research on consumer behavior trends related to global sustainability and ethics. Discover key findings from surveys conducted across 11 countries, shedding light on evolving trends and preferences in food, beverage, and packaging choices.

Sustainability and Ethics: Perceptions and Concerns 

Consumer behavior trends research shows an increase in focus on food security and nutrition. For instance, food security and nutrition rose in popularity as a concern between 2022 and 2023, while the concern of political instability dropped slightly. The health of the planet is also one of the most important global issues for consumers, chosen by 37% as their most pressing concern.

However, when buying food and beverages, environmental and social or ethical factors are not as influential for consumers compared to others. Comparatively, value for money is the most important factor for consumers when purchasing food and drink products, chosen by almost half of consumers.

Fifty-one percent of consumers say they are willing to pay extra for food and beverages that promote global causes. Animal cruelty is prioritized the most out of the multitude of global causes, while genetic modification is prioritized the least.

Regional Differences and Diets 

When looking at region specific consumer behavior trends, different populations care more about different global issues. Latin Americans care more about water scarcity, Asian countries focus on littering and landfills, ocean pollution is an emerging key issue in Canada and the U.S, and in Europe, consumers in Spain have the highest willingness to pay for environmental services, while the UK has the lowest (not just in Europe, the entire world).

Consumers also consider the environmental impact of plant-based diets. One in three consumers consider plant-based alternatives for their environmental benefits, 7% fewer than last year.

Who Should Take the Lead? 

Three in four consumers believe companies and governments should take responsibility for the environment. Generation Z has the lowest expectation of involvement from companies and governments in environmental issues, while Boomers display the highest demand when it comes to companies’ usages of natural resources and material sources.

Consumer behavior trends research additionally shows trust in organizations has decreased. Over the past year, two in five consumers expressed less trust in the government, and one in three expressed more trust in small businesses. Boomers have exhibited the greatest negative attitudes toward government and large companies, with a mere 14% increasing trust, while 40% have decreased their trust.

consumer behavior trends

Acting on Sustainability Concerns 

Reducing waste and recycling are the top actions consumers have been taking to be ethically or environmentally responsible. 46% of consumers state that they have minimized food waste in the past year, and 39% have recycled or used repurposed or upcycled products. Additionally, consumers chose supporting local producers as the social or ethical action most taken in the past year regarding their food purchasing choices.

Over half of consumers say that they are taking more steps to minimize food waste. However, almost half of them do this for financial reasons, not environmental.

Attitudes to Sustainability in Packaging 

One in three consumers were positively influenced in their purchasing choices by renewable raw materials in the packaging of their product. However, consumer opinions vary on what types of packaging are most eco-friendly. Biodegradable is seen as the most eco-friendly option for consumers globally, while reusable packaging, and packaging that can be recycled, are seen as second and third most eco-friendly.

Three in five consumers pay attention to sustainability claims on packaging. Additionally, 66% of consumers say that they are willing to compromise on packing attractiveness for more sustainable packaging. In all instances, Millennials are most likely to put their money behind their beliefs and pay more for sustainable packs.

However, while consumer behavior trends research demonstrates a general interest in labels with claims of sustainability on their products, consumers also consider the landscape of these labels as confusing and oversaturated. Three in five consumers look for sustainability labels on their food and drink, but over half also think there are too many and are confused about what they are looking at. Single over-arching labels may be the way forward, as 69% of consumers agree that they prefer one label that captures the complete impact on the environment.

Acting on Packaging Concerns: Recycling, Reducing, Reusing 

Choosing recyclable packing is the most common approach to environmental responsibility. Consumers worldwide are also more likely to reduce single-use plastic packaging, except for Latin Americans who show a higher propensity toward using biodegradable alternatives. Millennials are driving the push toward enhanced adoption of recyclable packing, with almost half of them claiming they increased their use of recyclable packaging in the last year.

When it comes to reusability, more than half of consumers prefer a personal refill option for the reuse of packaging, whether it is through a dispenser in-store or through a home delivery service. However, Brazilians are the only nationality that favors pick-up or drop-off delivery. Additionally, consumers from the United States and Canada are more likely to choose none of the above, with rates of 22% and 18% respectively.

Consumer behavior trends research shows Boomers as the least likely to increase their use of reusable packaging. 70% of Boomers said they stayed the same or decreased using reusable packaging in the past year.

Consumers with different incomes show different usage patterns on reusable packaging. More than half of individuals in high-income households said they had used reusable packing more frequently, whereas only half of that proportion of individuals from low-income households reported as such. Furthermore, when it comes to factors causing consumers to avoid sustainable packaging, value for money was chosen most often.

What’s Next in Consumer Behavior Trends?

The desire for more plant-based meal options when eating out is strong, with almost half of consumers having this opinion. In Asia and Latin America, this sentiment is even stronger, with over half of consumers expressing a strong preference for a wider range of plant-based food choices, both for dining out and eating at home. Consumer behavior trends research also shows Asians and Latin Americans as more open to new plant-based innovations and technologies compared to other regions.

However, global acceptance of innovative technology in plant-based foods has declined since 2022. Furthermore, consumers’ positive attitude towards innovative agriculture has declined slightly from 2023. They are increasingly concerned with the natural resource impact from innovative farming.

Alleviating cost and trust concerns are key to driving consumers toward more sustainable options. If sustainable action comes with financial incentive, such as reducing food waste, consumers are likely to adopt it.


This article is based on our report, “Exploring Consumer Perceptions & Behavior on Global Sustainability & Ethics.”
If you are interested in reading this report, feel free to request a demo. You can do this by either booking a demo or using our Contact Form.

More inspiration

From flavors to packaging, category trends to consumer behavior. We drill down into inspiring and intriguing cases to reveal what’s happening, why, and the implications for the sector.

Share this trend

Contact me for a demo

Didn’t find what you were looking for today?

Let us know what topics you’re interested in, and we’ll show you how Innova can help you get the insights you need

Explore our Insights, Reports and Trends

Before you go

Sign up to receive webinar invites, our latest blogs and information on new Innova products and services.  

Explore our Insights, Reports and Trends

Receive updates