Build Back Better: Living in a Climate Emergency

This article discusses one of the trends from the Top 10 Global Consumer Trends 2021 white paper. Download the full report here. 

The Build Back Better trend talks about the consumer desire for a “new normal” that feels kinder, fairer, and greener than the “pre-pandemic normal”. A positive future that is more respectful with the things that truly matter, the people we love, and the planet we live on.  

Sustainability is increasingly top of mind for consumers. Just weeks before the World Health Organization declared Coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic in March 202055% of consumers felt empowered to create positive change through their everyday actions, an increase of 10 percentage points since 2015. 

In 2020, ethics have positioned even higher on the consumer agenda with the Black Lives Matter movement demanding governments to actively put an end to police brutality following George Floyd’s killing. While the strong focus on social issues will prevail in 2021, the environmental side is expected to emerge stronger than pre-COVID.  

France is now considering ‘ecocide’ (the extensive damage to the environment) a national offence. By law, CEOs of companies or government ministers considered to be responsible for the destruction of the environment would face fines that can go up to €4.5 million or 10 years in prison. 

In the middle of a pandemic, climate change continues to be a major public concern worldwide, with a third of consumers worried about its impacts. Governments are under pressure to take action, with 33 countries having declared a climate emergency. Climate action ties into the idea of Build Back Better, with COVID-19 being a catalyst in the transition towards a net-zero economy. 

The year 2015 was a significant turning point in climate awareness, with the signature of the Paris Agreement and the launch of the United Nations Sustainability Goals. 2020 is set to be a tipping point for climate action with climate-conscious consumers paying more attention to the environmental impact of their products.  

In 2020, brands have responded with bold commitments to reduce their carbon footprint and some of them are introducing carbon labels in food products to educate consumers about the impact of their grocery shopping. Quorn was the first major brand to announce it in February 2020, four months later Unilever announced the use of carbon labels in 70,000 of its products, and Upfieldthe company that owns Flora and Proactiv, plans to do the same by the end of 2021.  

The virus outbreak has changed consumer habits, putting pressure on demand, production, and revenues, highlighting the hidden socio-economic and environmental costs of a focus on convenience and profitability. The pandemic has also shown the positive impacts that brands can have on people and the planet when they act with a selfless purpose.  

All eyes are now on businesses and their efforts to put purpose before profit at a time when the health crisis is turning into what could be one of the worst recessions on record. Despite the unfavorable economic landscape, there is a glimpse of optimism with companies across all industries planning strong investments isustainability initiatives between 2020 and 2025. 

 These investments are not only aiming to improve the brand image and reputation, but they are also made with the conviction that leaving the ’business as usual’ approach behind, putting competition and rivalries aside, makes economic sense when fighting global problems.  

The world is at a crossroads that opens new possibilities to push the boundaries of traditional business models based on an economic system that falls short to solve today’s problems. The decisions that businesses and governments take today will shape the world tomorrow. What seems clear after the COVID-19 crisis is that sustainability is not a marketing tool, it is vital to transform businesses to be ready for the future. 

To learn more about the Build Back Better consumer and key trends, please download the Top 10 Global Consumer Trends 2021 report.