“… people are being persuaded to spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, to create impressions that won’t last, on people we don’t care about” - Tim Jackson, Prosperity without Growth
In developed nations we live in an unprecedented world of super-consumption. Our economy demands that we consume to keep it growing healthily. Marketing campaigns whisper “buy-me, buy-me”, and before we know it our homes are filled with ‘stuff’. We love to consume and it is firmly engrained as a social norm - a (sometimes) fun, (mostly) daily activity the majority of us partake in. Globally we already consume 30% more resources each year than our planet can replenish. But if everyone consumed at European rates we would need three planets, and Americans have a five-planet lifestyle.
It’s clear we cannot go on this way. We face unprecedented challenges, such as accelerating climate change, loss of biodiversity, rising social inequalities, rapid population growth and growing demand for water and key commodities. We must adapt our societies and economies to sustainable patterns of consumption – low if not zero-carbon, resource-efficient and profitable - as soon as we can.
“Sustainability will continue to rise higher up the agenda over the coming years, so it is key that brands work to ensure they can respond to consumer demand. Being a sustainable company is not about box ticking, it’s about future-proofing your business and building trust and brand loyalty that will last for years to come.”
- Justin King, Chief Executive, J Sainsbury plc
Retail businesses are used to responding to consumer demand, or ‘pull’ – it is their principal business driver - but this will not deliver the radical changes we need to create a prosperous, resource-efficient world. Most consumers don’t have enough information, opportunity or motivation to make sustainable choices about how they buy and use products, so ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ consumption is still niche and companies make only incremental improvements. Leading brands need to take the initiative and work together to stimulate consumer pull on sustainability and make ‘sustainable consumption’ mainstream.
Consumer Futures 2020 aims to help them do this. It is designed as a practical tool to help organisations throughout the global consumer goods industry plan for the future. It contains four different but entirely plausible scenarios which explore how patterns of consumption and consumer behaviour may have changed by 2020.
The scenarios are not intended to be predictions or visions of desired futures. They look at how global trends may change our world and the consumer goods industry, and how sustainable products, services and business models could become mainstream.
“The old model of ever greater consumption, with growth at any price, is broken. Companies that succeed in the future will be those that reduce their environmental impact whilst increasing their social and economic impacts.”
- Amanda Sourry, Chairman, Unilever UK & Ireland
Future scenarios are an invaluable tool for forward thinking businesses to use when planning ahead. They help identify risks and opportunities, inform strategy development, and stimulate innovation. Sainsbury’s and Unilever are already using them to explore new ways of collaborating on initiatives that will deliver sustainability and commercial benefit to both organisations.
The scenarios are accompanied by a toolkit to help you make best use of the scenarios. It includes six sketched-up products and services for each scenario illustrating how brands may meet consumer needs in 2020 and a set of personas which can be used to analyse the scenarios from different consumer perspectives.
“Smart brands and businesses will make money today by accelerating the transition to a sustainable future. They need to make it easy for consumers to go green by offering products and services which are not just better for the environment, but healthier, cheaper and longer-lasting.”
- Dr Sally Uren, Deputy CEO, Forum for the Future