Does the Great Resignation mean people will (eventually) buy less stuff?

by Nov 17, 2021

Shelton Stat of the Week

Down from 78% in 2017, 70% of Americans feel moderately to very strongly responsible to change their daily choices to positively impact the environment. — Eco Pulse®, January 2021

We like to buy stuff. George Carlin joked about it. Annie Leonard wrote a book about it, which was then turned it into a short film. And thanks to the pandemic, we’ve been sitting on our couches and ordering a lot more stuff.

As all the news headlines will tell you, that’s resulting in a lot of chaos and worries about empty Christmas stockings (no stuffers). The pandemic shut down factories that make ingredients that go into our stuff, and that’s got our just-in-time manufacturing approach woefully behind.

The other thing the pandemic did was cause a lot of people to re-evaluate their jobs. And millions of people have decided they have other options. They’re staying at home to raise kids, going back to school, switching industries, starting businesses. And that means manufacturers and retailers are scrambling to find people to make and sell the stuff we’re all buying.

So this begs two questions:

  1. If we’re re-evaluating our lives and our jobs, will we ultimately re-evaluate our consumption? One day soon will we go, “You know, I just don’t need so much stuff!”?
  2. And if many of us are opting to change careers, start businesses or not work at all, will that mean less disposable income to buy more stuff?

In short, could this Great Resignation be really good for sustainability?

I don’t have a good answer, but our Shelton research team will probe on this more in our ongoing Eco Pulse® studies. Some other things we’re thinking about digging into next year include:

  1. While people in America are increasingly concerned that what they put in the recycling bin isn’t actually being recycled, most of us are still blissfully tossing anything that looks even remotely recyclable into our blue bins. That’s got us wondering: Where do they think all that stuff goes? What do they actually think happens to their used packaging once it leaves their curbside bin? Knowing this could help us story-tell better so we can move people to recycle better.
  2. In the sustainability arena, there’s been a barrage of news items coming out of COP26. And lots of hand-wringing that the commitments aren’t big enough. Do average people in America care? Are they even paying attention? And are they paying attention to the administration’s sustainability plans? If so, do they think, “Whew! That ‘solve climate change box’ got checked, so I don’t have to do anything now. The government is going to take care of it!” And now that government is taking action, do they expect more or less of the companies they buy from?

I’m curious what you’d like to see us dig into. What insights would help your sustainability marketing and communications efforts? Take a look at some of our latest reports and see what we’ve been covering, then let us know what we should be asking and uncovering in 2022.

News of the Week

As American workers leave jobs in record numbers, a closer look at who is quitting
The Wall Street Journal

The WSJ previously ran a piece reframing the Great Resignation as the “Great Reimagination” for companies. This article provides demographic data showing which employees are reimagining their options. As more data pours in, companies can better understand their risks and boost their resilience. You won’t see “ESG” mentioned in these articles, but you’ll see the connections.
Read more…

13 big deals that made COP26 the ‘Business COP’
GreenBiz

COP26: failure or success? Whatever your perspective, Joel Makower’s wrap-up article is a helpful way to focus on the progress business has made — and to which we can hold them accountable. As he puts it, these initiatives “represent a solid foundation on which to increase ambition and action.”
Read more…

Shoptivism: Why Consumers (& Job Seekers) Opt In & Out of Today’s Brands

Sustainability is now mainstream and it’s affecting purchase behavior.

Every year we ask Americans if they’ve ever intentionally purchased or not purchased a product or service based on the social or environmental record of the manufacturer. We then ask everyone who says “yes” to name the brand. Those who say “yes” and can give an example of a brand unaided? We call them shoptivists.

But who are these “shoptivists?”

Our latest report answers this question with three distinct consumer profiles, including details on their mental models, their shopping patterns, the messages that resonate, and where to find them.

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About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

1 Comment

  1. Bruce Henry Glanville

    The pandemic lockdown effect on the environment was clear proof that we are reeking havoc on our planet.
    We can’t all stay home and order from the net. We need global collective agreement (Glasgow on steroids) as soon it will be too late.

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