Sustainability: What Does This Common Word Really Mean?

Published on Thursday, 18 July 2019

The meaning of sustainability

Sustainability by the Numbers

For most respondents, being a “sustainable consumer” means buying organic products (39%), reusing containers instead of disposing of them (37%), reducing one’s own consumption needs (36%) and not buying single-use products (30%).

Furthermore, for 49% of subjects, “a product is sustainable” if it does not damage the environment.

In essence, for Italian consumers, sustainability means recycling, reduced consumption and waste and in general, more efficient waste disposal.

Here we can see a great difference from the United States, where consumers are more aware of the close link between sustainability and renewable energy and are directing their choices more and more towards companies that decide to use “green” energy for production.

Sustainabilty by the number

The Role of Sustainability

Italian consumers are assigning more importance to environmental protection and choose to purchase from companies that integrate environmental and social sustainability in their business models.

63% and 64% of subjects consider it important for companies to pay attention to the reducing polluting emissions and greenhouse gases, respectively, and 62% of them reacted favorably to the responsible management of waste through reuse and proper disposal.

Just over half of those interviewed favor the conscious and responsible consumption of energy, natural resources and water, as well as the protection of biodiversity, plants and animals and the ecosystems where they live. But there is an equally important segment of people who are not sufficiently informed on the importance of renewables in boosting the energy transition and decarbonization.

According to the survey, less than half of respondents said it was important for companies to pay attention to the needs and expectations of customers, to dialogue and share their sustainability goals with the local community, to promote the educational development of the community and the creation of Smart Cities, an urban model on a human scale, through the development of infrastructure, services and cutting-edge technologies.

Many companies have already incorporated renewable energy into their corporate and production processes and some of them have taken sustainability efforts to the next level, including a sticker indicating that a product is green, or produced 100% with renewable energy, on some products (for example, cookies).

A second survey conducted between 20 May and 4 June by the Istituto Piepoli on a sample of 1,010 subjects showed that 4 out of 10 Italians have noticed the energy consumption “sticker” on food packaging and that 8 out of 10 would like to see it on all packaging.

Most respondents also expect to find it displayed not only on food products but also on clothing, footwear and high-tech. 

Sustainable consumption habits

It’s time to act!

The results of the survey conducted in Italy highlight the outcome of a similar study commissioned in the United States by Enel Green Power.

American consumers, according to a survey performed by the KRC Research Institute last March, are increasingly attentive to the environment and thus are directing their purchasing choices toward sustainable and green companies. Most American citizens, in fact, are interested in environmental issues and about half the population is willing to pay a higher price (3% - 5% more) for a sustainable product.

The survey also revealed that two out of three Americans are ready to make life choices based on sustainability, giving priority to products and services offered by sustainable companies that actively support environmentalist causes.

In conclusion, the results of the Istituto Piepoli’s research demonstrate how the Italian consumer on average is informed about sustainability, associated above all with recycling and waste reduction, but not with renewable energy.

In America, on the other hand, attention to sustainability and awareness of the link between it and “green” sources has allowed for the activation of a virtuous cycle of sustainability, where consumers and companies influence each other to build a more conscious, sustainable world where renewable energy is more and more common.

Enel Green Power has made sustainability its mission and, thanks to Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), offers large companies energy supply agreements using renewable sources to help them achieve their sustainability goals.

PPAs are long-term contracts that create real partnerships for sustainability: because only by acting together can we create a greener world!