The NXT
Sustainable Consumer 2022

The NXT Sustainable Consumer 2022 is a quantitative research and foresight report of consumers in Sweden. It provides you with tools to thrive in a time of transition, outlining areas where the consumers hearts and anxieties are right now, strategies for success and three consumer profiles you need to be talking to, and how to speak with them.

Client

Above The Clouds

Year

2022

Category

Trend Report 

Type of Work

Research

Insights 

Sustainability 

Consumers 

This report is based on quantitative and qualitative research from Above The Clouds Future Series about the NXT Sustainable Consumer.

As a change forecaster, Above The Clouds guides you through this shifting landscape by providing expert consumer insight and actionable advise.

 

With the NXT Sustainable Consumer Report you will find tools and insights to power up your 2022 brand strategies through Sustainability and Eco-Decisions.​

What you find in The NXT Sustainable Consumer Report 2022

  1. Insights:

    1. The Sustainable Consumer Readiness Curve

  2. Drivers:

    1. Sustainability, Status and Anxiety 

  3. Future:

    1. Gen-Z The Eco-Sexual Generation?

  4. Future:

    1. Brand Activism is here to stay

  5. Opportunities:

    1. My Sustainability dream brand 

  6. Opportunities:

    1. Deep dive, Three Consumer Profiles

    2. Dedicate Pioneers

    3. Anxious Activists 

    4. Eco-Swingers

From Insights To Activations

Climate neutral, sustainable, eco-friendly, and responsible - terms that have become very popular in recent years by marketers, and rightly so, since issues such as climate change, systematic failure in production, water pollution or scarcity of natural resources are becoming more and more palpable. However, concerned citizens and consumers expect brands to be part of the solution, rather than the problem. The increased sustainability communication makes the consumer feel confused and they call for a new language where brands scrutinize their sustainability claims and branding.   

There are no shortcuts to perform a successful sustainability brand transformation, they never happen with a single marketing campaign. There is only a roadmap of strategic, creative, and actionable brand decisions that, if executed consistently, put a brand on the path to both sustainability and cultural status, consumer excitement, and business success.

We as humans, are transforming from Sustainability-Zombies into Eco-Swingers and Anxious Activists, and we balance this transformation on equal parts hope and anxiety.

Fredrik Ekström

During the crisis the shift towards making more environmentally friendly, sustainable, or ethical purchases has accelerated, and consumers have made a green leap as individuals to adopt the ideas of sustainability. They are moving from Spectators of sustainability to Eco- Swingers, Anxious Activists and Dedicated Pioneers which means that approximately eight of ten Swedish consumers identify themselves as being a sustainability oriented person. Meanwhile governments, businesses and individuals are using the upheaval of the pandemic as a chance to reset, and this has become intrinsically linked with building back more sustainably and equitably. For brands, this represents immense opportunities, but also great risks for those that don’t move with the moment.

 

To successfully transform a brand from linear to circular and into having a sustainable mindset, we usually focus on functional performance within products and production, however it is equally important to focus on emotional connectivity and redefine our approach to employer culture, storytelling, cultural status, and consumer engagement. And for brands that are early in their transformative process, it is easy to forget that no other brand started out being perfect. When benchmarking with competitors’ ahead in their successful transformation it often seems simple, logical, and inevitable when their work is presented as success cases and cited in the press. But few transformative attempts are straightforward, and in the uncommon event that they do succeed as planned, they usually take years to yield significant environmental results. During the process, it is crucial to engage the consumer with strong and authentic branding. Equal important as a tool to keep consumers from migrating to other brands that tell a more compelling story or yield higher cultural status points. But also, important as a tool to engage and drive change specifically within the consumer profiles: spectators and eco-swingers.

Introduction to report statistics

“The sustainability journey is one of continual reflection and improvement. Rather than a quick fix, it’s a long-term process that must exist well beyond a brand’s lifecycle. And they need to accept that they are not perfect from the beginning. Sustainability is not about being perfect, it’s about doing stuff, and then doing them, over and over, again.”

Learning #1 Sustainability starts from within

When the consumer state what makes a brand stand out as a sustainability - dream brand - they place social commitment in top before any planetary commitments. Actions that are relatable and not so complex, like wages, employer benefits recycled and recyclable rate all higher than the more complex issue of being climate positive. This showcase that the consumer not only value environmental issues to be a key part of sustainability. To embed sustainability at the core of your business, look inwards and re-assess how you motivate your internal teams to create with the planet in mind. Brands that claim to work with sustainability should also perform and publish extended employee and subcontractors reports with their sustainability report.

Question: What qualities do you think make a company a dream company in sustainability?

1. 47 % The company takes care of its employees in a good way.
2. 37 % The company ensures a fair salary for everyone, including subcontractors.
3. 34 % The company uses recycled materials where possible.
4. 32% The company has products that are recyclable.
5. 29 % The company is at the forefront of sustainable innovation and development.

6. 25 % The company is climate positive.

 

 

Learning #2 Scrutinize your Sustainability claims

During the last year we as consumers have faced an overload of sustainability communication from brands, creating a world where sustainability as a trustworthy one solution label has been challenged. Marketers and brand strategists use it to push everything from fashion to fast food campaigns, while greenwashing brands still operate unchecked. In short, the term “Sustainability” has lost a bit of its glory purpose and the consumer feel anxious. As we move into a future of democratised transparency, brand communications need to empower customers to make their own eco-decisions, with a focus on values, results, and storytelling. Gone are the days when brands could freely claim to be climate neutral, climate positive, sustainable, or eco-friendly. Now, the marketing department must be wary of committing to such terms and prepare to swap buzzwords for inspiring language and quantitative data of what they do.

 

 

Learning #3 Sustainability and Cultural Status

The word “status” effects people, it makes us feel a little embarrassed and usually nothing we want to talk about. At the same time, one cannot help but be fascinated about the power behind it. So, what is it that really gives status, or cultural capital, when 8 out of 10 Swedish consumers identify themselves as being a person that connects their self-conception with sustainability? And how does this affect future focused branding. There is a sloppy casual use of the word; status gadgets, status car, status shopping and status travel. Expensive objects are considered to be the way to gain status and consequently status would only be about surface and vanity. Therefore, status hunting would only be something for money-hungry celebrity wannabes. But nothing can be more wrong when the NXT sustainable consumer bring new values, behaviours and preferences.

 

There has been a change in our view of status where the NXT sustainable consumer is impressed by people who teach them something new and unexpected about sustainability. And the more dedicated and knowledgeable in sustainability, the more impressed they become. But even in sustainability zombies (which actively distance themselves from the climate crisis), 1 in 4 is impressed by new knowledge about sustainability.

 

Question: Would you be impressed if a person taught you some new, unexpected and interesting knowledge about sustainability?

Would be Very impressed or quite impressed by learning something new about sustainability.

  • 86 % Dedicated Pioneers

  • 78 % Anxious Activists

  • 63 % Eco-Swingers

  • 27 % Spectators

  • 24 % Sustainability Zombies

 

So what to do to impress?

Press pause on your next growth campaign and start to read up on sustainability, because real change has to begin with authenticity and people evaluate brands as they do with friends and they get impressed by friends/brands that have stopped consuming, and don’t encourage unnecessary consumption. Have changed their business to be more sustainable in general and that are knowledgable about the latest research, technology and R&D.

 

Question: Which of the following characteristics of a friend IMPRESSES YOU THE MOST?

  • 48 % To have stopped consuming unnecessary products.

  • 31% To have changed his life to become more sustainable in general.

  • 30 % To have knowledge about the latest research on the environment and climate.

  • 28 % To have knowledge and understand new technologies for sustainable development.

  • 26 % To have created a product / project / company that does something good for the environment.

  • 20 % To have invested in projects / companies that do something good for the environment.

 

 

This report is based on quantitative and qualitative research and is part of Above The Clouds Future Series about the NXT Sustainable Consumer. As a change forecaster Above The Clouds guide brands through the shifting sustainability landscape by providing expert consumer insight and actionable advise. With the NXT Sustainable Consumer Report they provide tools and insights to power up brands Eco-Decisions.

3 key learnings when building branding for
The NXT Sustainable Consumer