Of those familiar with circular economy, 44.9% indicate they have extensive knowledge and actively participate in circular actions, while a total of 55.1% have heard of the term but are not familiar with the specifics.
Knowledge and engagement are higher among the younger generations. Of those in the 18-24 age group, 53.5% indicate extensive knowledge and participation, and 54.8% of the 25-39 age group say the same. Of those over 55 years of age, only 32.4% say they have extensive knowledge and actively participate.
The aspects indicated to be most relevant seem to reflect what is closest in proximity and currently the main issues of concern in a person’s daily life. Reducing waste is indicated as relevant by 62% and saving water by 61%. This is followed by limiting emissions of greenhouse gasses (57.7%), reducing the extraction of natural resources (53.9%) and better working and social conditions (41.8%). All aspects score high, which could indicate that consumers are aware that circularity is a systemic challenge and needs to be addressed in multiple dimensions.
As many as 43% have heard about circularity due to personal interest. Moreover, consumers seem to access information through a variety of channels, e.g. 60.9% through media (social media, TV, radio, etc), 26.8% from political discussions and 23% through friends.
With 20.9% indicating corporate communication from brands as a source of information, companies have untapped potential to further engage with consumers.
Personal engagement is slightly higher among the younger generations. This could be because older generations tend to be more traditional in their media consumption.
Almost all respondents think consumers can play a role in the circular economy (86.1%). Of these, 65.4% think they can contribute through purchasing sustainable products and proper recycling. Interestingly, 20.7% believe boycotts and advocacy can work, which could represent a risk for companies that do not improve and communicate their contribution to circularity.
Consumers consider the impact of their purchasing behaviours. A total of 48.1% buy products with recycled properties and 62.9% prefer to buy less or go for second-hand products.
Only 14.6% had rented instead of owning. This reflects the findings in the corporate circular economy survey (“How are companies transitioning towards the circular economy?”, 2021), where most companies reported a focus on existing products and the life cycle. There were fewer business model innovation activities, such as renting instead of owning models.
When looking at behavioural patterns, upbringing and purchasing power seem to play a role. Those 55 years and older do more repairs than their younger counterparts. The younger generations tend to buy more second-hand and rent instead of owning. This could reflect a mix of it being trendy and that younger generations have less purchasing power.
The main expectation is that companies use recycled, recyclable or less product packaging (67.3%). A total of 54.1% say brands should take responsibility for the product end-of-life and 51.1% say brands should launch circular and sustainable products.