What is green worth?

More than half of Gen Z are willing to pay for more sustainable features from retailers

This week in BOXpoll, we delved into consumer sentiment around the carbon footprint of online orders, how much it should cost them to reduce environmental impact, and sustainable packaging.

Carbon footprints

Key takeaways:

  • Gen Z and Millennials, who consistently cite climate concerns as a top political issue, are more concerned about the environmental impact of their online orders than Gen X and Baby Boomers.
  • While most consumers responded similarly to both options presented, Gen Z showed a significant preference (+8%) for action over data.
  • Demographics that feel even more strongly than Gen Z on these issues include the most valuable consumers to retailers:
    • Consumers whose household income has increased since the pandemic (53% want to know the carbon footprint; 56% want to know that something is being done to reduce that footprint)
    • Consumers who are shopping online more often than they were three months ago (50% and 56%, respectively).
  • Retailers appealing to these segments can get more mileage out of carbon footprint calculators by including clear information about how the brand is reducing negative environmental impact.
Exchanging green for green

When it comes to optional payments toward carbon offsets or tangible actions, just over one-third (36%) of consumers are willing to put their money where their mouth is. (These numbers are consistent with our previous BOXpoll reporting about sustainability shoppers.)

Key takeaways:

  • Tangible action is slightly more popular across all generations than carbon offsets. After all, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, but the second-best time is at checkout.
  • While more than half of Gen Z shoppers say they would pay for either choice, inclination (and the amount shoppers are willing to pay) wanes with age.
  • The only demographic more willing to pay than Gen Z is students.
    • More than two-thirds (69%) of students are willing to pay an average of $7.14 for tangible action.
    • 67% are willing to pay an average of $6.09 for carbon offsets.

Sustainable packaging

Key takeaways:

  • Among consumers, easy-to-reuse packaging is the most popular way for retailers to make order packaging more sustainable—by almost 20 percentage points for every age group.
  • In line with our finding that action is more appealing than data, the two most popular options are ones that put power in the consumer’s hands to reuse and recycle packaging.
  • Less than one-quarter of consumers say they have no interest in making sure their ecommerce packaging is sustainable.

Key takeaways:

  • A plurality of consumers (40%) say they either always or very frequently reuse ecommerce packaging, while 70% of consumers say they try to reuse ecommerce packaging at least somewhat frequently.
  • Surprisingly, when it comes to “always or very frequently” reusing packaging, Gen Z comes in last, while Baby Boomers come in first. Looks like Nana’s trove of “things that’ll come in handy one day” wasn’t a bad call after all.

We also examined responses by online purchasing frequency.

Key takeaways:

  • Of consumers who have online shopping orders delivered a few times a month—the most common cadence—half (50%) say they try to reuse packaging “always or very frequently.”
  • Frequency of reusing packaging drops with frequency of online shopping, which is to be expected for shoppers who don’t have as much material lying around to reuse.

Key takeaways:

  • More than one-third of Gen Z and Millennials are less likely to shop from an online retailer that doesn’t use recyclable packaging.
  • However, the majority (67%) of shoppers say recyclable packaging has no impact on their brand loyalty. Taken together with other responses about package reuse and recycling: recyclable packaging is predominantly considered nice-to-have, but not essential.

Based on this data, along our finding that consumers value reusable packaging more than information about how to properly recycle, retailers targeting sustainability shoppers will get more mileage out of reusable packaging than recyclable packaging. This will also reduce the amount of “wish-cycling” (i.e., well-meaning shoppers improperly tossing bubble mailers or traditional poly mailers into their curbside bin.) Sustainably-minded consumers—and the Earth—will thank you.

Get the BOXpoll inside scoop
Pitney Bowes is surveying consumers on a wide variety of ecommerce topics each and every week, and publishing the best of our findings on pb.com every month.
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