- 80% of Europeans have a positive image of the circular economy;
- 1 in 2 Europeans say they have recycled more and reduced their waste in the last three years, with Romanians being among the leaders in this regard;
- 6 out of 10 Europeans buy the same amount of goods, but say they reduce their waste by donating their products after using them, selling them or keeping them longer instead of throwing them away;
- 70% of Europeans are willing to pay more for more responsible brands and products, Romanians being the most categorical (84%).
According to the 2022 edition of the pan-European study “L’Observatoire Cetelem de la Consommation”, the impression that prices are rising is shared in many European countries, with 87% of Europeans (+17 points vs. 2021) believing that prices have risen in the last year. 1 in 2 Europeans believe that this increase is significant.
Although the percentage of Europeans who consider that their purchasing power is four percentage points higher than last year (from 17% in 2021 to 21% in 2022), 34% still consider that it has decreased in 2021, and 45% % that it has remained stable for the last year. With a significant difference from the European average, 46% of Romanians and Hungarians believe that their purchasing power has decreased in the last 12 months.
The study also shows a change in the perception of Europeans about the general situation in their country, the average score that people give is 5.4, exactly the same as before the health crisis, and the highest value in the last 15 years. Although they are still at the bottom of the ranking when it comes to the score they would give to their country, Romanians have improved their perception compared to last year, from 4.3 to 4.5 points.
The “L’Observatoire Cetelem de la Consommation” study was conducted at the end of 2021 in 17 European countries, including Romania, on a number of 15,800 respondents aged between 18 and 75 years, based on online interviews, in nationally representative samples for each country. In addition to analyzing the attitudes and behaviors of Europeans, this year’s research examined the emergence and role of the consumer-seller, who adopts an entrepreneurial approach to his consumption, which can turn him into a key economic player. These individuals are poised to bring about significant changes in consumption and the widespread development of the concept of the circular economy.
The circular economy and the transformation of the consumer into a seller
Although it could be defined in several ways, the circular economy can be most clearly symbolized by the “3 Rs”: Recycling, Reduction, Reuse. The L’Observatoire study took as a point of reference the definition given by the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME): “the circular economy is an economic system in which, at every stage of their life cycle, products (goods and services) they are manufactured and marketed in such a way as to increase the efficiency with which resources are used and to reduce their impact on the environment, while increasing human well-being ”.
Europeans tend to approach the concept of the circular economy in a positive light and not just in a temporary way. Although 6 out of 10 consider themselves well-informed or very well-informed about the subject, only a quarter understand exactly what it means. The positive perception of the circular economy is reflected in the opinions of those who associate it with equally positive values. From their point of view, they perceive it as having a positive impact on the environment and natural resources (85%). The second quality associated with the circular economy is the ability to innovate, as 82% of Europeans point out. Job creation is the third most important attribute, valued by 75% of Europeans.
“One of the key conclusions of this report is the new role that Europeans play as entrepreneurs in their own consumption, a role that 28% of respondents consider synonymous with the future. This transformation will change the habits of brands and retailers, especially given the clear generational divide that has formed, with young people taking on the role of selling consumers more easily than older ones. Clearly, the circular economy is a promising approach and a new vision for restructuring consumption. Our customers want to consume more responsibly. That is why, as a leader in consumer lending, we believe that we play a key role in supporting elections and responsible and efficient planning of their budget, regardless of any changes or challenges they face.”, says Miruna Senciuc, CEO BNP Paribas Personal Finance Bucharest Branch.
Although they have a positive attitude towards participation in the circular economy, Europeans intend to further intensify this commitment in the future. Waste sorting and recycling are the practices that Europeans are most likely to get involved in: 65% already do so on a regular basis. 1 in 2 Europeans say they have recycled more and reduced their waste in the last three years, with Italians, Poles, Danes and Romanians at the top of the list.
In fact, 6 out of 10 Europeans say they buy the same amount of goods, but reduce their waste because they sell, donate or keep the products longer instead of throwing them away. This attitude reflects the collective responsibility and the desire to avoid overconsumption.
At the same time, 80% see it as a way to ensure an additional income, the sale of products thus becoming a common practice. More than 6 in 10 Europeans say they have sold second-hand goods in the last year, up from 8 in 10 (77%) among people under 35. The average monthly earnings from these practices amount to 77 euros, an increase in income far from negligible.
27% of Romanians say that they regularly buy second-hand products (at least once a month), with two percentage points above the European average, and the additional income they get from such transactions is even higher than the European average, and they reach up to 83 euros. The differences between countries are significant: while Hungarians, Czechs and Slovaks earn less than 40 euros in additional income, the amount is almost threefold in Germany and especially in the UK, where sellers earn on average 115 euros.
Europeans say they are equally open to buying second-hand goods from a retailer or store, as well as from a private advertising platform (41% and 39%, respectively). The first option is preferred especially by Romanians, Bulgarians and British, while Germans and Austrians prefer the second. Although the circular economy focuses on second-hand purchases and recycling, 3 out of 4 Europeans say they are very attached to the idea of owning possessions. In this case, too, there are differences between generations, with older respondents giving more value to property than younger ones. Hungarians, Bulgarians, Italians and Romanians stand out as the most enthusiastic about the notion of property, while Swedes, Norwegians and especially Slovaks stand at the opposite end of the scale.
This approach to ensuring the sustainability of products can often have consequences for the price at which they are sold on the market by manufacturers. But Europeans are aware that this commitment of brands to be more responsible may come at a cost, but they are willing to accept it. 7 out of 10 Europeans say they are willing to pay more for products that are labeled this way. Romanians, Bulgarians and Hungarians are clearly in favor of this (84%, 83% and 80%), while French and Belgians are a little more reluctant (61% and 63%). From a generational perspective, 8 out of 10 young people under the age of 35 say they are willing to pay a higher price for products they can rely on for longer.
Consumers’ perceptions of brand involvement vary. 82% consider that by introducing sustainable products they show their commitment to the environment. In a similar proportion, I think it is a way to stand out in the market in which it operates (78%), but also an opportunity to generate even more profit (77%).