03 | Individual responsibility is rising: consumers want to change and “do the right thing”

According to our global study, consumers now see themselves as being the most responsible for both the environment and their own health (71% and 74% respectively: see right). Government and politicians are also seen to have a high responsibility for the environment, and are widely trusted to drive change. Brands and retailers feature much lower on these scales (although other research suggests that consumers expect the industry to take action). 

Graph: Responsibility for health and environment

Consumers are already changing their behaviour to include greater environmental awareness in their purchasing decisions on multiple levels (see below). The most frequently cited reason given for buying environmentally sound products is to preserve the environment for future generations, followed by doing something helpful for the community. The figures for both have grown significantly since 2017, demonstrating that consumers increasingly want to “do the right thing”.

Graph: Behaviour drivers

​Looking ahead, there is a widespread ambition to take action to become increasingly environmentally sound and healthier over the next 12 months. One in five say they plan to buy more sustainable packaging and more environmentally sound food and beverage products. Interestingly, while reducing negative impact is the main reason given for this, personal and health factors rate highly too.​

Graph: Future ambitions and drivers

Mental & physical well-being

Once considered something of a taboo topic, mental health is now considered equal to physical health: 67% of consumers globally agree that it is a major concern for society – the same figure as for physical health. (The figure for “strongly agree” is actually higher: 37% versus 35%.)

Looking at specific health problems, stress is considered the most concerning from a personal perspective (at 36%), significantly ahead of heart health (29%), with depression/anxiety only just behind (on 28%) – all ahead of cancer, the traditional fear, on 24%.

A desire “to feel better about myself” is a significant driver in every category of behavioural change. And nearly a quarter (23%) admit that a current driver for buying environmentally friendly products is “to feel less guilty”. In this context, it’s easy to see a mental health benefit in positive action: feeling good by doing good.

Tetra Rex carton packages, Valio

Case study:Valio (Finland)

Founded in 1905, Valio is the biggest dairy business in Finland and a major exporter, with total net sales of €1.7 billion. Describing itself as “the most innovative dairy in the world”, Valio holds more than 300 patents in 50 countries. Recent health-focused innovations include its Valio Oddlygood® range of plant-based dairy alternative products, consisting of snacks and drinks made with oats; and Valio MiFU®, a milk protein alternative to meat.

Valio has highly ambitious goals in sustainable milk production, aiming to cut Finland’s dairy carbon footprint to zero by 2035. Actions in this area include: carbon farming; 100% soy free, grass-only feeding; building a network for recycling manure and nutrients into biogas and fertiliser; and biogas-fuelled milk trucks.

Valio also has an environmentally smart packaging approach, which aims to: minimise food waste and climate impact; prefer renewable packaging materials and increase the use of recycled raw materials; design packages for recycling; and reuse transport packaging.

In 2015, Valio became the first company to launch a fully renewable, plant-based package: the Tetra Rex® Plant-based carton. Since the end of 2018, all Valio’s ​​gabled milk, sour milk, cream and yoghurt have been packed in fully renewable material.

In 2019, Finns voted Valio the most sustainable company in Finland for the sixth year running.

Read the next section: Food & beverage is a key change catalyst

Infographic: Consider the environment