The challenge

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. We cannot go on this way. 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. 

What we did

Consumer Futures 2020 was a practical tool we developed in 2011 to help the global consumer goods industry, including retailers, brands and manufacturers, plan for the future. It contains of four different, but entirely plausible, scenarios exploring how patterns of consumption and consumer behaviour may have changed by 2020.

The scenarios look at how global trends will affect consumers and the consumer goods industry, and how sustainable products, services and business models could become mainstream. That helps identify risks and opportunities, inform strategy development, and stimulate innovation.

Sainsbury’s and Unilever, who supported the work, have used them to explore new ways of collaborating to deliver sustainability and commercial benefit to both organisations.

Download the scenarios

What we found

The scenarios explore two of the most uncertain trends for 2020 consumers:

  • Prosperous vs Less prosperous – by 2020, will our economy be flourishing or subdued?
  • Do-it-yourself vs Do-it-for-me – will consumers take the initiative to satisfy their needs or expect brands to do it for them?

We then used these to create a two-by-two matrix, which in turn enabled us to create the scenarios exploring how these trends could play out, as illustrated along the axes.



My way - mainstream consumers buy locally, strengthening their local economies. Vertical farming is widespread, producing more food per unit of land. Sustainable living is high-tech and easy; products such as the personal energy micro-manager help reduce energy consumption and build personal relationships via on-line competitions.

Sell it to me - brands and businesses have taken a lot of the hard work out of being sustainable, driven by resource scarcity and a global deal on climate change. Retailers have taken unsustainable products off the shelves and smart products and services are commonplace – all designed to reduce their in-use impacts.

From Me to You - communities are again strengthened by local food and energy production. Resources are valued much more highly than today because they are scarce and expensive, and there is little or no waste. Goods exchanges are mainstream, encouraging recycling and re-use of goods and resources, from fridges to grey water.

I’m in your hands - the product to service shift has become mainstream. Retailers and brands lease a lifetime’s supply of key goods, and now also provide heat, water and nutrition. Strict government legislation and economies of scale mean that these leasing models are highly sustainable. Consumers take a “waste not want not” attitude and expect government and business to take the lead on delivering sustainability.


"Marketers have woken up to the responsibilities and opportunities from sustainability. All they need now is the right tools. Consumer Futures will act as prompt to stimulate and interrogate thinking and provides a rich resource for our clients, as well as for us at Dragon Rouge, to develop the brands and innovations that will thrive in a sustainable future."

Dorothy Mackenzie, Chairman, Dragon Rouge