“There is greater concern about the environment in wealthier countries,” says Fredrik N G Andersson, Associate Professor, Department of Economics at Lund University. “Much of this demand is influenced by social media and NGOs. A small group can have a large impact.”
At the same time, according to one of the above studies, even if growing numbers of consumers are willing to make changes in their lifestyles, only an average of 32 percent are willing to pay more for sustainable products and services.2 But change is happening, and it’s being driven by younger people, who are more likely to have their consumption driven by sustainable values, and they are willing to pay for it.
“Decarbonization is possible, but it requires new thinking,” says Andersson. “It requires a new society, but societies change all the time.”
Looking at the impact of the whole supply chain
Associate Professor Andersson also stresses that it’s important to clarify what is meant by ‘green’, ‘sustainable’ or ‘environmentally friendly’. Many consumers equate ‘green’ with a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions but products can affect the environment in many different ways. This can become even more complicated when “environmental accounting” is used to analyze the entire supply and production chain of a product.
“Emissions can vary drastically throughout the supply chain,” Andersson explains. “A lot of emissions result from producing basic materials like steel, chemicals or paper, because they are energy-intensive sectors. Transporting raw materials and products also causes a lot of emissions, and even how the product is managed or recycled at the end of its useful life can make an impact. Other parts of the supply chain might only produce a tiny amount of emissions.”
Demand for improvement from producers and consumers
Increasingly there is pressure on the supply chain to be more environmentally friendly, and that pressure is being exerted at both ends of the chain.