Cost Of Living Impacts Sustainable Choices Of Singaporeans

Despite 97% of Singaporeans wanting to live a sustainable life, the rising cost of living is preventing them from acting on their good intentions (70%). 2 in 3 are also more concerned about saving money instead of saving the planet. Clearer communication from brands about their sustainable initiatives, products and services is also critical to influence the purchases of these shoppers who are concerned about the quality and benefits of sustainable products and are struggling to find suitable sustainable alternatives.

These are the key insights from Kantar’s Sustainability Sector Index 2022 in APAC. This regional snapshot of Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam is part of a landmark global benchmark study from the world’s leading marketing data and analytics company. It is designed to help brands uncover what matters to people in their sustainability journey; and to prioritise brand focus and investment on specific environmental and social sustainability actions at both a regional and local level.

Singaporeans want affordable price points to change sustainable intention into action

Meanwhile two-thirds of Singapore shoppers say products that are ‘better for the environment and society’ are more expensive (72%) with just one in three of those who are ‘struggling’ with their household budgets now actively seeking brands that offer ways to offset their impact on the environment (30%).

“The cost-of-living crisis means affordable price points are an imperative to ensure shoppers convert their intentions into action when it comes to sustainability, especially as most of us want to do good,” says Trezelene Chan, Head of Sustainability for Kantar in Singapore.

“Brands must deliver on price to avoid sustainability being a luxury for the wealthy given 7 in 10 want to buy environmentally sustainable products and services, according to our recent Global Issues Barometer. While there will always be a premium segment, brands must start mainstreaming and collaborating across the entire value-chain to drive economies of scale. By offering a sustainable product with a price point that more people can afford will drive mass market adoption and help brands grow their value now and in the future.”

A number of barriers get in the way from making sustainable choices
Besides price, other barriers relate to the sustainable offers such as their availability, quality and level of information. When making their purchasing decisions, 9 in 10 shoppers are also now ‘taking careful note of’ or ‘sometimes considering’ the causes that their chosen brands support (86%) with 2 in 3 saying that clear certification explaining the ethical benefits would influence their purchase (67%). At the same time, while Singaporeans want to be more mindful of the environment, 67% also said their day-to-day priorities get in the way.

People are more likely to stay abreast of a company’s sustainability efforts and support or stop using brands based on their impact on the environment. But there are 6 in 10 shoppers who are finding it hard to tell which products and services are good or bad ethically or for the environment (65%). Almost half do not know where to find sustainable or ethical products (48%) and one-third are concerned that sustainable products work less well, or they are lower quality (36%). 1 in 3 Singaporeans (34%) feel like sustainability isn’t their responsibility and it’s up to businesses to solve.

Greenwashing is another hurdle to overcome with 81% of sceptical consumers saying they have seen misleading information about sustainable actions taken by companies and 63% worrying brands are involved in environmental and social issues just for commercial reasons.

Brands must address the sustainable issues that are important to Singaporeans 

56% believe buying sustainable products is a demonstration of who they are and 51% are prepared to invest time and money in companies that try to do good. Half of people pay a lot of attention to both environmental and societal issues in the news (50%) and 2 in 5 say they are ‘usually aware’ of a company’s sustainable initiatives (40%), so it’s important for companies to address the issues that matter to Singaporeans.

Carbon emissions, lack of safe water, hazardous waste disposal, air and water pollution are the most common environmental issues that Singaporeans are looking for companies in different sectors to tackle. Consumers want companies in 22 of 38 indicated sectors to tackle overpackaging, non-recyclable packaging and landfill, overconsumption, and waste.

Figure 1. Top 10 concerns on sustainability Singapore (out of 43 topics – Max Diff mean score of importance)

Overall, environmental issues are seen as more important than social challenges. The concerns for environmental issues are driven across the generations. Social issues are also important, with tackling ‘mental health’ issues ranking 6th in Singapore, out of 43 topics that companies should be concerned about and address. Younger generations are more concerned about mental health issues; ranked 1st among Millennials and ranked 4th among Gen Z.

Mental health is also one of the most important issues that Singaporeans expect companies in “in-home entertainment” and “beer & alcoholic beverages” to solve. When it comes to social issues, 67% feel that brands have an important part to play in the social conversation about issues like gender equality and race or immigrant relations.

“Singapore is part of a region that is the most vulnerable to environmental changes and in turn, social issues. As companies work to convert their corporate sustainability strategies into clear brand actions that connect and gain trust with consumers, they must strategically align their commitment to addressing relevant category sustainability issues through communications or product offers in an easy, compelling, and meaningful way that resonate with consumers,” adds Trezelene Chan.