A sneak peek into YouGov's new sustainability study
September 30th, 2022, Honor Gray

A sneak peek into YouGov's new sustainability study

Public opinion on sustainability is largely divided, ranging from climate change optimists to agnostics, engaged individuals to passives, and those who assume personal responsibility to those who displace this outwardly. Data from a YouGov survey of 10,400 adults across the UK, conducted in August 2022, identified six key segments of the population, divided by their behaviours, attitudes and beliefs on sustainability. The segmentation aims to better understand how audiences’ practices and opinions diverge on a range of sustainability matters including purchasing behaviour, greenwashing and veganism.

Segment one (20%) members feel urgent about the need to act now, while maintaining an optimistic outlook. They believe in the importance of individual action, while also understanding the need for governmental and business solutions.

Segment two (17%) members are concerned and demoralised about sustainability. They feel that government and particularly corporations should be doing more. However, they are still willing to take personal action.

Segment three (16%) is similar to segment two. However, members are less willing to make behaviour changes. This is rooted in their belief that individual action is futile without societal level change.

Segment four (15.5%) members direct responsibility for sustainability onto individuals and believe in the importance of personal action, including eating local foods and driving electric cars. However, this segment perceives sustainability as relatively trivial in comparison to other problems.

Segment five (19%) members are relatively unconcerned about sustainability and project responsibility onto governments and corporations while preferring resources to be spent on alternative social problems.

Segment six (12.5%) members feel detached and unconcerned with environmental issues, largely rooted in their climate change scepticism. They are less likely to carry out everyday sustainability practices and again prefer a top-down approach to managing environmental issues.

The segments have polarised opinions on the causes of climate change. Segments one and three have a very similar understanding, with more than six in ten believing climate change is purely the result of human activity. This is slightly lower for segment two with 54% stating that climate change is purely anthropogenic. Among segment four, 28% feel that climate change is the result of human activity, and while this is lower for segment five (19%), this is due to more people in this segment providing neutral responses, restating their detachment from the issue. Four in ten (41%) of segment six feel climate change is the result of natural causes or do not think it is happening at all.

The research also explores sustainability behaviours. Perhaps unsurprisingly, segment one are most likely to have made changes, with seven in ten (69%) having made lifestyle modifications and stuck to them. This is slightly lower for segment two with 62% having made and stuck to changes. Interestingly segments three and four showed very similar behaviour patterns, despite the difference in urgency they feel towards climate change, with just over four in ten making behaviour changes and sticking to them. Segments five and six were the least likely to have made changes, especially segment six, where seven in ten (72%) had not changed their behaviour at all. This suggests that key indicators of behavioural change are believing climate change is an urgent issue and feeling individual action is important.

In the next phase, our qualitative team will run an online community with 60 people across the segments to get a deeper understanding of how sustainability fits into people’s lives while cementing understanding of any key similarities and differences. Participants will have time to reflect on a range of topics over seven days, allowing for considered feedback in a multimedia format.

Look out for our upcoming report on sustainability and consumers.

Find out more about running your own segmentation research

Explore our living data – for free