Sustainable shopping: 2020’s surprise trend?

While it’s no secret that online shopping has grown even more ubiquitous in 2020, the fact remains that many purchases are still made in person. Countless grocery stores and shopping centers around the world implemented social distancing measures and adjusted their hours in response to the pandemic, but how have individual shoppers been impacted? New research conducted earlier this year reveals that shopping habits are changing for a variety of social and economic reasons.

Challenges inspire new ways of thinking

In a Rakuten Insight survey of 1000 respondents between the ages of 20 and 70 conducted in late May, participants shared how the spread of COVID-19 had influenced their attitudes toward shopping in Japan. In what could represent a challenge to existing norms, 30% reported being more conscious about sustainability in their purchasing decisions.

The link between staying at home and sustainable shopping might not be immediately obvious, but for a large percentage of the population, the spring of 2020 was largely spent at home. This slowed-down lifestyle was also a chance for reflection for more than 44% of respondents, giving them the chance to reconsider various aspects of their lives. Other top motivations for more sustainable shopping habits included a heightened desire to save money, a greater focus on health and safety and less frequent shopping trips allowing for more planning of purchases in advance.

A large percentage of people also cut down on their shopping visits. When respondents were asked how the pandemic had affected their shopping habits, roughly half said that they have been shopping less frequently and getting larger amounts of shopping done with each visit.

Companies like Rakuten Farm, a business that brings locally-farmed organic produce to dining tables around Japan, are ready to meet a growing demand for sustainable products.
Companies like Rakuten Farm, a business that brings locally-farmed organic produce to dining tables around Japan, are ready to meet a growing demand for sustainability-minded shopping.

It’s in the bag

Public health concerns weren’t the only reason for a shift toward sustainability, however, as the early summer of 2020 brought with it another, less philosophical change.

As of July 1, all retail stores in Japan are legally required to charge for plastic bags, though many outlets began phasing this change in ahead of schedule. By late May, bringing one’s own reusable shopping bag to stores had become a social trend, though some shoppers are more on board than others. Nearly one third of respondents felt that carrying around their own bag was too much of a hassle, while a few complained that they’d lament the loss of free plastic bags, as they do come in quite handy for throwing out household trash!

Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO of Rakuten, has noted these shifts in society as well. “While the pandemic has negatively affected the economy worldwide, this has led to greater awareness of how to create a sustainable society. The recent legislation phasing out free plastic shopping bags in Japan is probably contributing to this result too,” commented Mikitani at a recent online event for Rakuten Ichiba merchants. “When I drop by the convenience store now, I just take the items I buy home by hand. Even if it’s only a couple of ice cream cones.”

2020 has been an unprecedented year for any number of reasons, and sometimes it feels as though everything about our daily lives has changed. As we adjust to the new normal, we will discover which of those changes were only temporary, and what aspects of our lives never really changed at all. But if sustainable shopping proves to be an enduring trend, it also proves that positive change can come from even the most challenging situations.

Recognized as an Eco-First company

Contributions at the individual level are valuable no matter who they’re coming from, but systemic change and true innovation are also required. That’s why the Rakuten Group has also launched related initiatives, such as Earth Mall for selling sustainable products. Rakuten, Inc. has also joined the RE100 initiative, committing to 100% adoption of renewable electricity for all business operations in the near future. For its efforts, Rakuten was certified this week as an Eco-First company by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment.

Show More
Back to top button