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It’s not just the young who care about the environment

If you believe media reports, the UK’s 25 year environment plan (just published), was beefed up to appeal to young voters. Our research shows that a strong environment plan should have wider appeal since environmental issues are of interest to all - not just the young.


We took these media reports as an opportunity to cast our eye back over some of our previous Future Ready surveys.  These extend over a number of years, and one of our primary research asked whether participants were interested in environmental issues.  The results make for interesting reading…

Most UK citizens are interested in environmental issues  

Around 7 in 10 people in our survey agreed that they were ‘interested in environmental issues’ in one of our periodic Future Ready surveys.  Less than 1 in 10 said environmental issues weren’t of interest.  Interest figure barely changes with age with the highest environmental interest shown to be from 55-64 year olds.  It is also shown that women tend to care slightly more than men. 

“I am interested in environmental issues”

Based on responses to a representative sample of 1000 adults in the UK

This gives a different perspective to the commonly held political view that green issues are a low priority for voters because in fact almost 70% of the total voters agreed strongly that they were interested in environmental views.

Companies and governments ignore green issues at their peril

While green issues aren’t necessarily the most important thing for Brits, they are important nonetheless.  It’s a clear message for both policy makers and businesses.  Brits expect the key organisations they work with to be taking environmental action on their behalf, making it easy for them and making the organisations do the heavy lifting.  They certainly don’t want to be reading about incidents, supply chain indiscretions or environmental damage as a result of their spending (or votes).

Specific issues are potentially more important than generalities

Be it single use plastics or air quality, focussing on specific environmental issues evokes much more passion in our surveys.  Our 2015 Future Ready survey showed that air quality (after house prices) was the most important issue for Londoners.  David Attenborough and Blue Planet 2’s impact on single use plastics has been nothing short of stunning.  This has the power to translate into real consumer (and voter) action.  Retailer, Iceland, cites research that 91% of its target customers would consider switching brand as part of its commitment to phase out plastic packaging. 

Focussing on issues that are most relevant to individuals is also important.  Almost two times as many people felt that environmental issues were “one of the three most important issues facing me and my family” compared to “one of the three most important issues facing Britain” in a 2017 poll conducted by Bright Blue, a research organisation. 

Getting to grips with future issues is as important as today’s headlines

During his time as CEO of Sainsbury’s, Justin King used to say that his sustainability programme would “address the issues customers would care about if they knew they should care about them.”  His challenge was to do the heavy lifting for both today’s issues which are important for customers and also to be covering the issues which customers would care about in 18 months’ time. 

Our future ready insights see nature and social isolation as the fast emerging themes

Climate change, cutting waste and addressing air quality are the three most important issues today – expressed specifically in ways that are relevant to individuals.  In addition, our future ready research sees biodiversity and nature as fast emerging themes.  Wider social trends, especially loneliness and social isolation become more important for those looking for broader sustainability trends – not just for the old.

This blog was written by David Symons, UK Director of Sustainability