In Brand Atlas* 2018 we asked consumers to choose the ‘sustainability’ behaviours they practice from a list of 13 options.

(*Just a reminder that Brand Atlas is bi-annual, large sample survey, consumer data that describes ‘economically active’ South Africans – those residing in households with a monthly income of more than R8000, who account for 80% of SA household income and expenditure.)

There are some interesting here. Here are some to consider:

  • Involuntary options: We see that many of the claimed consumer behaviours are likely driven by their financial constraints rather than their sustainability consciences. In particular, the high tariff hikes in electricity and water coupled with restrictions and the threats of fines have forced consumers to cut back. This is not a voluntary option (but it is good for sustainability).
  • By the same logic, in addition to cutting back on lights and water for reason of financial constraint, consumers are also cutting back on motorized transport and eating meat. Hardly any can afford solar panels or an electric car.
  • Voluntary options: Eight of the 13 sustainability options are to a large extent truly voluntary in nature. These are the ones being driven by the consumers’ collective sustainability conscience.
  • Very few voluntarily take sustainability measures seriously: As you would expect some sustainability practices are followed by more people than others. But what you might not expect is just how few consumers actively practice each one of the voluntary options. With on average, around only one in 5 economically active South Africans actively practicing any one voluntary sustainability practice, will it be possible to convert the non-economically active 70% of the population to these practices too? Probably not.
  • South Africans are in plastic denial: Because so few bought a modern engined car recently, it is easy to get why so few people actually went out and deliberately bought a low emissions vehicle. But it is not so easy to get why only one in 10 people try to avoid single use plastic in some way. Twice as many people (but only 21%) seek out environmentally friendly products as avoid single use plastics. Evidently these people are not thinking clearly.
  • One in 10 follow none of the 13 sustainability options: Maybe the only way to get South Africans to be good sustainability practitioners and role-models is to hit them were it hurts most – and I don’t mean their pockets.

Where are your customers on these measures? Is sustainability important to your brands? Brand Atlas can help you answer these any many other questions you may have regarding the lifestyles and attitudes of the consumers you target with the products and services you sell.

To find put more about Brand Atlas 2018, go to our website or contact Megan ( / 072 060 5241