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Green is normal

This is a guest post by Paul Kelly, Director of External Affairs, ASDA on the results of a sustainability survey ASDA have conducted over the last ten months with their customers. 

For a simple idea, sustainability can often be made to sound very complicated. Jargon like ‘carbon taxes’, ‘water footprinting’ and ‘third-party certification’ seem irrelevant to everyday life and there is often a sense that in order to ‘be green’ you need a degree and will have to take out a second mortgage.

There are plenty of views on how people can live more sustainably, and what they need to do and buy in order to achieve this. At Asda, we have our own strategy on how we think we can make our business more sustainable – based on our parent Walmart’s commitments to reducing waste, using more renewable energy, and sourcing products that sustain people and the environment.

Listening not lecturing
But when it comes to our customers we think it’s better to listen than to lecture. That’s why we undertook our monthly Sustainability Study – asking 6,000 Asda customers what matters to them when it comes to ‘green’ issues. We call them “Everyday Experts” because we believe our customers are the real experts on what most people are thinking, feeling and expecting around sustainability in their daily lives.

These Everyday Experts are regular Asda customers and they represent every group in the UK; old and young, women and men, from young mums to busy working couples to pensioners on benefits.

We asked them what green issues they are most interested in and why. What they are currently doing to be green, and what they plan to do in the future. And we asked them what they think retailers should be doing to support their green agenda.

The results are fascinating.

Green is as normal as having a cup of tea
Sustainability isn’t a bolt on or stand alone element of people’s lives – its simply part of them. It’s not something they are thinking about getting round to – it’s as normal as having a cup of tea.

Green values don’t ‘belong’ to a single part of the population. Within our Sustainability Study, 96% of Everyday Experts tells us they care about green issues, with over 70% claiming to care a lot – no matter what their gender, age, location or income level.

Green living is attractive in tough economic climates
And it’s not something that falls by the wayside when times are tough – it actually becomes more important than ever. And why wouldn’t it? At its heart, sustainability is about making smart choices that minimise waste and preserve resources – which is key in these tough economic times.

Month after month the Everyday Experts on the lowest incomes, struggling with tight household budgets, tell us they care and act on sustainability as much as those on the most comfortable incomes.

Where there are definite shifts are the expectations customers place on retailers and manufacturers when it comes to their future demands. They want to know more; particularly about sustainable fish, local food and alternative transport. Our research has identified five new customer priorities on sustainability:

  • Save me money
  • 100% sustainable products
  • Cut my waste
  • Support my community
  • Use Everyday Experts

Here at Asda our biggest achievements on our sustainability journey already demonstrate some great synergies with these priorities set by Everyday Experts. And of course, we commit to keep working hard in the areas that our customers are passionate about.

Through comparative surveys we’ve even found that the wider UK population mirrors our Everyday Experts panel. This means the findings of our report are about more than Asda customers – they’re a powerful barometer for the whole UK public.

We believe this makes what our Everyday Experts have to say important reading for anyone who cares about sustainable development in the UK. Green isn’t new, it’s just the norm and customers are living it every day.

For the full report please click here.

Written by

Green Alliance is a charity and independent think tank focused on ambitious leadership and increased political support for environmental solutions in the UK. This blog provides space for commentary and analysis around environmental politics and policy issues as they affect the UK. The views of external contributors do not necessarily represent those of Green Alliance.