Sustainability across cultures

Sustainability across cultures: China, India, The US and Sweden

25th Aug 2021

Sustainability across cultures: China, India, The US and Sweden

While some countries may be better positioned to achieve certain sustainability goals, brands and governments have to juggle with the reality of their market – ranging from growth and development to socioeconomics, infrastructure in place, and local cultural aspirations and expectations – to define what their sustainability priorities should be.

Based on a quantitative survey conducted with 4,000 respondents across 4 countries at different stages of their sustainability journey, namely China, India, Sweden and the US, our report aims to understand how culture shapes a population’s understanding and expectations of sustainability and what it means to them. Looking at the SDG Index and the 2021 Ranking, we assessed whether government actions are truly aligned with their people’s expectations and gathered insights into how brands’ sustainability efforts are perceived.

This quantitative survey was conducted by our partner and survey sponsor Schlesinger Group and includes over 4,000 individual responses from consumers across China, India, Sweden and the US.

The qualitative insight was gathered by cultural and planning experts in these key markets. Through extensive desk research, they have provided additional insight and rationale to put the results of this survey into perspective.

The countries within this report were selected based on their 2021 ranking among the 193 UN Member States, as well as on the sustainability challenges they currently face. The aim was to present countries with varying challenges and cultural standpoints. Using the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a reference point to define their sustainability strategy and priorities – an initiative adopted by the United Nations General Assembly since 2015 as a universal call for action to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

Was asked respondents to evaluate how they feel about sustainability, to assess whether it is important to them or whether it is a topic that makes them feel indifferent. Also taking into account, a divide between age groups across all 4 markets.

Within the report, it was also necessary to understand what the name the top 3 SDGs they believe their country should be working towards as a priority. Comparing these to the key goals identified by the UN for their country. By doing this, being able to assess whether there are any discrepancies between the two and could look into some of the cultural reasons that explain why these goals are considered a priority in their country.

Knowing that sustainability issues within a country are more complex, reaching into various levels of power and structures, it was asked who should be raising awareness on the topic of sustainability, the consensus across all surveyed countries is that there is a level of distrust in brands and companies to commit to sustainable goals due to the perception that companies are more focused on making a profit rather than contributing to global development.

Identify commonalities across cultures, especially when it comes to age groups: younger generations are seen as leading the way for a more sustainable future, as well as governments being entrusted to lead the sustainability agenda over corporates.

However, it is apparent that for brands to lead successful CSR initiatives, deep cultural analysis is required to fully engage with the wider public and achieve tangible sustainability targets that not only benefit local communities but also the greater common global goals. Time is of the essence, and it is only with this level of granularity that full engagement and action will be successfully achieved with various communities worldwide.

Culture is a key influencer of behaviour as it shapes our perception of the world around us.

Thank you to our survey sponsor, Schlesinger Group, as well as our cultural experts for their fantastic contributions.



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