Research Finds ‘Overwhelming’ Shift Towards More Sustainable Consumer Practices In Southeast Asia

The study offers advice for brands when choosing imagery in their marketing campaigns.

Ahead of International Earth Day this week, iStock has released research showing that 93% of people surveyed in Southeast Asia (SEA) are personally practicing sustainability. According to iStock, this number peaked in the Spring of 2021 at 95% when governments from over 30 countries pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 at the 2021 Leaders’ Climate Summit.

For the past two years, iStock’s creative insights platform Visual GPS has captured findings that indicated a level of consistency in people’s commitment to living a sustainable lifestyle, showing percentages above 90% since the summer of 2020 to 2021. The research has captured the consumer sentiment of over 10,000 individuals around the globe every four months since November 2019.

“After the launch of Visual GPS two years ago, we have learned that consumers are expecting businesses of all sizes to take responsibility for improving climate conditions,” said Dr. Rebecca Swift, Global Head of Creative Insights at iStock.

 
 

“Our research also shows while consumers are carrying out some positive actions in their day-to-day lives, they still lack understanding of how such important issues like climate change, impact their daily lives. This represents an opportunity for small businesses and entrepreneurs to show their communities how they are committed to sustainability, how they can support their customers be more sustainable via their offerings, and demonstrate the benefits of having a more sustainable lifestyle”

The results showed recycling is still considered the most prominent way for consumers to make a positive impact on the planet (65%), followed by reusing, repairing, buying second-hand, using eco-friendly products, and making their home’s energy-efficient (40%). The lowest interest is on stopping the use of single-use products and making transport choices that reduce use gasoline/petrol/diesel (35%).

 
 

According to the findings, only a few (11%) suggested joining associations or advocacy groups or donate to causes or charities that support sustainability and the environment as a way to show support and commitment to protecting the planet.

However, while people increasingly believe they’ve made personal progress towards living a more sustainable lifestyle, two thirds (44%) say their government could be doing more to combat climate change with only one-third (34%) confident that their government is doing everything in their power; 75% believe businesses should take the lead if the government fails to.

Study takeaways for visual marketing choices

Rethink representations of sustainability

“Once symbolized by polar bears, solar panels, and icebergs, sustainable imagery is now evolving to include new visuals that feel more impactful for the modern consumer. Although well-known sustainable imagery still proves popular, it’s a good idea to also include visuals that aren’t as obviously tied to the sustainability movement, but still signify it for your more discerning customers.”

Make conscious, eco-friendly choices

“Research says 79% of consumers are actively trying to reduce the amount of plastic they use and 53% of them only buy from brands that make an effort to be eco-friendly. Make sure you’re meeting modern standards of sustainability by rethinking how you choose images and videos for every project. Include details such as reusable to-go cups or metal straws to convey your commitment to sustainability and show that you’re taking a thoughtful approach in your environmental efforts.”

Help consumers overcome present-day fears by visualizing a sustainable future

“Although 46% of consumers know that they should care more about the environment, that feeling is trumped by convenience. By using aspirational and future-facing imagery, you can support their sustainable efforts and make them feel like they can make a positive impact on the world.

Show a wide range of visuals that portray environmentally aware choices, ranging from small lifestyle changes to industries investing in new, innovative technologies and initiatives that’ll lead to sustainability on a large scale. Consumers are twice as likely to agree that a brand is committed to sustainability if they show how people are working and doing their part towards creating a more sustainable future.”

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