It’s becoming clear that the way we live and do business is no longer serving us well. Our “use it then lose it” approach to natural resources is pushing the planet beyond breaking point. Our economic system has created unimaginable wealth, but only for the few. And the global pandemic only served to throw these problems into sharper relief.
The system is creaking and there is a growing appetite for change, not least from individuals. According to the recent Regeneration Rising study, which canvassed 3,000 people across the United States, the UK and China, 84 percent of people think the economy should be rebuilt to champion both inclusivity and sustainability, putting people and planet first.
People understand that the fight against climate change will be a team effort. Eighty-five percent say we must work together urgently to tackle it. Already, 93 percent of respondents have adopted one or more sustainable habits such as recycling (77 percent), refusing single-use plastic (63 percent), following a climate-friendly diet (51 percent), or simply consuming less in general (58 percent). Now people say they are willing to go further and seven out of 10 say they are prepared to make dramatic changes to their lifestyle if it will protect the planet.
While people of all ages aspire to live more sustainably — 94 percent in total — younger generations are more given to grand gestures. Seventy-one percent of young people say they would attend a protest, compared to 48 percent of the total population across all three markets, and 52 percent would even get arrested at one. Sixty percent would give up animal products and 71 percent claim they would consider foregoing having a family if it helps.
People are willing to change but, crucially, they are looking to brands and businesses to step up and show leadership. Almost nine out of ten (88 percent) believe that companies have a responsibility to take care of the planet and its people and 86 percent of people now expect businesses to play their part in solving big challenges like climate change. People also want to see businesses shift their priorities: 82 percent think they should now put people and planet before profit. People also want more practical help and will welcome efforts that help them live more sustainably. For instance, 81 percent of respondents say that they are more likely to purchase if brands make it easier to reuse or recycle their products and packaging.
Businesses are under growing pressure on a number of fronts to deliver on sustainability, including this grassroots pressure from their customers.
Pioneering brands are now going beyond the basics of compliance, looking to regeneration as the future of sustainability. This means managing out negative impacts, but also pursuing positive ones across the triple bottom line. Such an approach will be welcomed by the 83 percent of the study’s respondents who believe businesses and brands should focus on having a positive impact on the planet, rather than just doing less harm.
Whether setting bold transformational goals on carbon emissions like Microsoft or committing to regenerative agriculture practices like Danone and Nestlé, the pioneers have recognized that in the future, how they nurture people and the environment will be critical to their own resilience and growth.
While regeneration is a fairly unfamiliar concept to most people surveyed, the idea of brands delivering a restorative impact on communities and ecosystems resonates strongly with many. Eighty-one percent say the prospect fills them with hope, and 75 percent would actively look to buy from brands who are setting ambitious goals to achieve it.
Brands that advocate and lead by adopting regenerative practices will build resilience, for themselves and for society.