How the cost of living crisis could be harming the planet as well as your pocket
Concern about climate change is growing, but so is reluctance to pay a premium for greener products, research shows. Reports from Consumer NZ and NZ Post both show an increase in the number of people worried about the environment and a drop in the number willing to pay more for environmentally responsible products as the cost of living continues to bite. Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy said climate change stood out as being a particularly high concern for people aged 50 and over. This years severe weather events in Auckland and the upper North Island have sparked a surge in concern for local climate impacts. The watchdogs latest Sentiment Tracker showed these concerns were impacting peoples purchasing habits. Over the last three months, more than 10% had changed their spending habits, such as the brand or product purchased, for sustainability or environmental reasons, Duffy said. And over the coming year, almost 85% expected to maintain or increase their focus on making environmentally sustainable food and grocery choices. People are keen to make environmentally sustainable purchases, but at the same time they are constrained by the ongoing cost of living squeeze, he said. Research by NZ Post also showed the number of people willing to pay more for environmentally responsible products and services was declining. This is likely driven by the tougher economic environment, requiring consumers to make a trade-off between price and sustainable choices, its eCommerce Market Sentiments report said. The report also found consumers were increasingly sceptical of carbon offset schemes, which many saw as a way for businesses to avoid taking real action, shifting the problem on to others while also passing on the cost of carbon credits to the consumer. Retailers relying on this to give them sustainable credentials may need to reconsider, it said. Despite the increased environmental concern, Consumer NZs sentiment tracking confirmed the cost of living was New Zealanders number one worry, as it had been since early 2022. More than half of New Zealanders said it was their biggest concern, and more than 60% were also very concerned about the cost of food and groceries over the next year. More than 80% of people are opting to buy less expensive products to save money, and almost 90% are becoming more mindful about where they choose to spend their hard-earned dollars. This is likely exacerbated by the fact that 70% of New Zealanders say they are now spending more of their income on essentials.