Environmental concerns aren’t new, but to anyone following the news, it may seem like they’ve recently reached a fever pitch.

Citizens — especially young people — around the world are protesting climate change. Corporations like Starbucks are ditching plastic straws with the goal of eliminating single-use plastics. And last month, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg admonished world leaders in a blistering speech delivered during the UN’s Climate Action Summit.

There’s a reason why tension over climate change, plastic use and other environmental concerns have swelled, the Hartman Group says in a new report, “Sustainability 2019: Beyond Business as Usual.” These crises are no longer distant concepts — they’re urgent problems, and consumers want solutions.

Of course, there are ways for consumers to better serve the environment, from recycling and reusing to carpooling and monitoring their use of water and electricity. But they’re also seeking to support companies doing their part to minimize negative environmental impacts and promote environmental health.
In fact, more consumers seem to be prioritizing the greater good in their purchasing patterns than in the past. Just over half of consumers surveyed cited the environment as their major reason for purchasing sustainable or socially responsible products, compared to 32 percent of consumers just two years ago.

 “While the stakes are getting higher, eroding trust in government and corporations has left consumers hungry for leadership,” said Laurie Demeritt, ceo of The Hartman Group. “The moral, even spiritual overtones evident in consumers’ relationship to sustainability stem not just from a search for hope and resilience but also a sense that collective action and even sacrifice is necessary for progress.”

It’s up to businesses to earn and keep the trust of environmentally-concerned consumers, and there are many companies doing just that.

Ferrero, for example, announced earlier this month it has committed to making all its packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025, joining Mars Wrigley, Nestlé and hundreds of other companies that have signed the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment.

Those same companies, and many others, also have committed to ending deforestation in cocoa-farming regions of Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire under the Frameworks for Action. They’ve agreed to avoid converting additional land for cocoa production, as well as eliminating illegal cocoa production in national parks. Stronger enforcement of national forest policies and development of alternative livelihoods for affected farmers are integral parts of the commitments.

Certainly there’s much more to do in response to the threat of climate change, but this is a start. It’ll take the efforts of both consumers and corporations to ensure the safety and longevity of planet for years to come.