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Keeping you in-the-know on environmental, social and governance developments

A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I wrote what I called a “thought piece” about sustainability and circulated it among several colleagues. My point was that sustainable products only made sense to those who could afford the higher price and are willing to accept certain product performance trade-offs. About 30 years later, a new study from Deloitte comes to very similar conclusions. The firm surveyed people in 20+ countries between September 2021 and March 2023 about attitudes and actions related to climate change and sustainability.

“Analysis of the latest data from Deloitte’s Sustainable Actions Index shows that people care about sustainability, but acting on those values may only be an option for those who can afford it…

Respondents who perceive themselves to be ‘high income’ are more likely to engage in a variety of sustainable behaviors. Conversely, respondents who self-identify as lower- or middle-income and those who say their personal financial situation has worsened in the last year are less likely to buy sustainable goods…

… for many, the ‘sustainable’ choice is no choice at all. Cost is a major concern when it comes to sustainable purchases. Among those who did not make a sustainable purchase in the last month, only 32% of higher-income respondents identified cost as the main purchase barrier, while 53% of lower-income respondents said the same…”

The survey didn’t touch on customer ability/willingness to accept product performance trade-offs (think EV range and charging limitations versus gasoline cars), nor did it address different people’s capacity to participate in ESG-themed investment classes. Companies need to be aware of these limitations when considering ESG initiatives, building assumptions and determining success metrics.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile