More than four in five consumers polled in a sustainability survey say that they are willing to start or are already taking action in response to climate change, according to international consultancy, Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
In a report titled “Are Consumers in the Gulf States Ready to Go Green?”, which is based on a study of consumers in the six-member states of the GCC, BCG says that there is surprisingly high awareness of the growing threats that global warming poses to respondents and their families and to future generations.
To gauge the level of awareness of climate change across the GCC and whether consumers’ concern is translating into changing behaviour, BCG’s Center for Customer Insight surveyed 6,000 adults of various income levels, ages, and nationalities in the region’s six nations in July 2020.
Seventy-one percent of respondents—ranging from 52% in Kuwait to 81% in the UAE—said they know what climate change is and are aware of its negative impact on the environment.
However, a significant portion of the region’s population remains poorly informed—or even misinformed. In fact, 28% of respondents said they believe climate change will have a positive impact on the planet. Still, 44% believe the warming climate is already adversely affecting their personal lives, and 63% think the impact will be felt by future generations.
The research also found that a large share of consumers are considering altering aspects of their everyday lives in light of environmental considerations: 56% of respondents said they feel strongly about the need to adopt a sustainable lifestyle.
The challenge for the region’s governments, business community, and civil society is to translate climate concern into action. Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE recycle, reuse, or recover only around 10% of the plastic and metal waste that they produce, less than the global average of 32%.
Barriers to going green
Consumers say that a number of barriers make eco-friendly or sustainable practices challenging to implement—and they are looking to government to remove them. Thus, there is good reason to believe that more people would embrace sustainable lifestyles if the public and private sectors made them more accessible through financial incentives, public-awareness initiatives, investments in green infrastructure, and a wider choice of affordable eco-friendly goods and services.
The study found that a majority of GCC consumers follow eco-friendly practices when the means of doing so are readily available or when they believe that it may save them money. When eco-friendly options are more expensive or less accessible, however, adoption rates are much lower.
The vast majority (70%) believe that the primary responsibility for climate change lies with government.
Consumers want more information about recycling, renewable energy, how to live sustainably, and how to reduce energy consumption. They want to know more about energy-efficient homes and electric cars. They expect government to invest more in sustainable infrastructure, particularly recycling facilities, renewable energy, public transportation, and eco-tourism. There is also significant support for stronger government action in the form of financial incentives for green initiatives and prohibitions on the sale of high-carbon-footprint products and services.
Some steps taken
A number of actions taken by the GCC nations in recent years have improved awareness of climate change and made environmental sustainability a higher priority. All six member states are signatories to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and several are making progress in providing affordable clean energy and implementing energy-efficiency targets. Sustainability initiatives include development of renewable power and recycling plants, reduction of construction and demolition waste in landfills, and regulations and incentives to connect rooftop solar panels to power grids.