The social shift: unveiling the heartbeat of sustainability through Kantar’s lens

Kantar's Sustainability Sector Index finds mental health, climate action, and reduce inequalities rank top 3.
28 November 2023
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Carmen Bohoyo

Industry Executive – Retail, Travel, Hospitality, North America

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Kantar's 2023 Sustainability Sector Index (SSI) finds that unlike global consumers, US consumers are primarily focused on socially oriented issues when it comes to sustainability. In the aftermath of the pandemic, the echoes of an unprecedented loneliness epidemic reverberated through American society. Life was not as it once was, economic pressures bore down on everyday lives, and people were seeking answers in the realm of sustainability. Kantar SSI finds that Americans’ top three concerns are around mental health, poverty, and livable wages. Climate change, which has both environmental and social impact, is also tied for the third highest concern of consumers.

As brands align on sustainability strategy, it’s important to consider the social impact factors at play across all sustainability issues. There is consensus among US consumers that building a thriving sustainable future requires involvement from everyone, and they are eager to take part in the change. There is an opportunity to engage consumers and help them transform their behaviors; identifying areas where your brand can offer support, ease, and simplicity will help mobilize the market even further.  

US Consumer Chronicles

What people care about and act upon is strongly linked to where they are in the world. The way brands can connect with people on the topic of sustainability thereby differs by country. Having a comprehensive baseline understanding of what topics within sustainability resonate most with people is critical for brands looking to thrive within the sustainable revolution. It is a way to understand the foundations of shared value creation – what can benefit people, brands, and the planet.  

So, what are consumers actually thinking about these issues and what are their concerns as it relates to marketing? And what’s most important to Americans when it comes to sustainability?   

Top concerns for US consumers when it comes to sustainability are social in nature: 

  1. Good health and well-being (59%) 
  2. Climate action (57%) 
  3. Reduced inequalities (55%) 
  4. Decent work and economic growth (54%) 
  5. Responsible consumption and protection (52%) 
  6. Life on land (51%)  

A Call to Action

In today’s climate, governments, the general public and brands/companies are held responsible for helping solve sustainability issues. Consumers are expecting brands to meet their sustainability goals. More so than in recent years, responsibility and accountability are seen as fundamental counterparts to profitability and brand value. In fact, employees and consumers are already rewarding businesses for positive environmental and social performances—with 36% of Americans 18+ agreeing that they have “stopped buying certain products/services because of their impact on the environment or society” according to Kantar’s U.S. MONITOR Study.  

Globally, consumers put the heaviest burden on governments to solve climate and environmental issues (82%), providing an opportunity for brands to step in and lead the change. Strategic partnerships between consumers and companies, both of which are seen as responsive and effective, present a way to influence positive change.  

Climate change and environmental issues

Climate Change Responsibility and Action Graph

Kantar’s Sustainability Sector Index 2023
Q15/17. Whose responsibility is it to help solve/tackle environmental/social issues in the country where you live?
Q16/18. Who do you think is taking significant actions to help solve/tackle environmental/social issues in the country where you live?
Base: USA = 2001 respondents

Social issues

Social Issues Responsibility and Action Graph

Kantar’s Sustainability Sector Index 2023
Q15/17. Whose responsibility is it to help solve/tackle environmental/social issues in the country where you live?
Q16/18. Who do you think is taking significant actions to help solve/tackle environmental/social issues in the country where you live?
Base: USA = 2001 respondents

Sustainability in 2024

Globally, the call for action resonated, with consumers placing the heaviest burden on governments to tackle climate and environmental issues. So, we can expect even further scrutiny on what businesses are doing to address social, environmental and economic issues impacting consumers’ daily lives around the world. But in this shared responsibility, brands that find opportunities to lead change will see massive growth and win hearts and loyalty. In the coming years, strategic partnerships will become crucial drivers of hope and meaningful change, forging connections between responsive companies and conscientious consumers. 

In the grand tapestry of sustainability, the story continues to unfold, with each choice, each action, and each partnership adding a new thread. As we turn the pages of this evolving narrative, one thing is clear – the heart of sustainability beats strongest when it beats for the people, the brands, and the planet.  

More about Kantar’s 2023 Sustainable Sector Index

Opportunities differ on a sector basis, and you will need to think about where and how your brand can credibly play. Our Sustainable Sector Index renewed 2023 edition enables you to unlock engagement and reap commercial rewards, while also connecting your strategy with the United Nations’s Sustainable Development Goals.

We used an open-ended question to discover what is happening in the world that people think should be solved. This is a qualitative style feedback at a global quantitative scale, asked at the beginning of the survey, without an agenda, to allow us to get to the truth, without worrying about bias.

Download our free booklet where you'll find key takeaways to establish your brand leadership in sustainability.

More about Kantar Sustainable Transformation Practice

At Kantar, we firmly align our sustainability tenants on the UN’s Sustainable Development goals and tenants, focusing on social, environmental, and economical issues, and built our Sustainability Transformation Practice on such. Kantar’s Sustainable Transformation Practice sits at the intersection of brands, people, and social & environmental issues. Our solutions span across the UN’s 17 Sustainability Development Goals which cover social, environmental, and economic concerns to help businesses understand what people expect of them and deliver impact. Giving you the insight to understand and take advantage of transformational change. The Kantar Sustainability Transformation Practice’s mission is to bring our sustainable future closer to the present by driving positive change for people, the planet, and our economy, and a key driver of that is building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive society. Forbes named Kantar STP as one of the top sustainability consultancies in the world.  

Because we sit at the intersection of brands, people, and the issues that are defining our future, we have the unique ability and responsibility to connect the dots and catalyze action at scale. Last year we partnered with more than 400 of the world’s largest brands, in 50 markets, helping deliver transformation in every sector, leading to our Sustainability Sector Index.  

Learn more about how Kantar can help your business on your sustainability journey here.  

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