Rakuten.Today: Global shoppers are embracing a circular economy
The concept of a “circular economy” — one which designs out waste and pollution, keeps products and materials in use, and regenerates natural systems* — isn’t only winning over environment groups, it’s inspiring businesses as well. With many global companies now embracing the concepts of a circular economy, the idea seems poised for the mainstream.
But what do everyday shoppers think? A recent Rakuten Insight survey reveals that a majority of global respondents would likely be in favor of such a change.
Demand for circular and sustainable products is rising across the board
The Rakuten Insight survey — conducted among 1,800 consumers across six markets: Japan, France, Germany, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S. — indicates that the motivation to consume more consciously is already strong, while interest in sustainable brands and circular businesses is increasing.
Demand for sustainable products was highest in Spain (85%) and France (81%). On the end of the spectrum, respondents from Japan reported the lowest interest (59%). However, even in Japan, 42% of respondents stated that they were planning to increase their spend on sustainable products in the next five years.
Notably, Gen Z and Millennials showed the most interest in purchasing more sustainable products in the next five years across all markets. This trend stands out particularly in Germany (81% for Gen Z and 76% for Millennials) and Spain (80% for Gen Z and 79% for Millennials).
While in most countries Gen Z seems to be the driving force behind sustainable change, it is Millennials in Japan and France who show a higher interest in sustainable products.
In all surveyed markets there was a silent understanding about the motivation for choosing sustainable products: Because it’s better for the planet (Spain: 83%, Germany: 79%, France: 77%, UK: 76%), and better for people (UK: 54%, Spain: 53%, Germany: 48%, France: 43%).
The desire for improved product quality and affordability — especially for circular products — also played a role. On the other hand, the barriers for buying sustainable products appears to be trust-related issues, and hygiene concerns for circular items in particular.
Circular business models
The study focused on two key areas of a circular economy: second-hand products and rental models. Consumers in Japan seem to be the most willing to rent compared to other markets (Japan: 33%, Spain: 21%, France: 21%, Germany: 20%, UK: 14%, US: 13%), and across all markets the main reason to rent is the assumed affordability. Preferred products were books and electronics across all markets.
Second-hand products were less popular in Japan (56%), but comparatively more popular in European markets, especially France (69%) and the U.K. (68%). In all countries, the demand for second-hand products was higher among Gen Z and Millennials.
The most popular categories for second-hand shopping were apparel, books and furniture, and the main reasons for purchasing were affordability and that these products are better for the planet.
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