Perceptions of Sustainability and Food Waste: Germany
This research provides information on German consumers' perceptions of sustainability and food waste. Consumers in Germany pay special attention to sustainability standards; however, only about 13% of these consumers seem to be receptive to recommendations and are willing to make efforts to reduce food waste. Details on their perceptions are available below.
The Importance of Sustainability
- Last year, the IUBH University of Applied Sciences surveyed the personal attitudes of Germans to sustainability. This survey found that "Germans pay special attention to sustainability standards – for example, organic or Fairtrade labels — when it comes to food: 69.8% consider that important."
- According to a Statista report, as of 2020, a total of 8.16 million Germans completely agreed that they would be willing to spend more money on environmentally friendly products.
- A McKinsey study found that due to the COVID-19 crisis, two-third of German consumers say it has become more important to limit the impacts on climate change. Approximately 90% of consumers believe that there is a need to further reduce pollution. These consumers now recycle and purchase products that are in environmentally friendly packaging.
- German consumers have embraced more sustainable behaviors, with 52% making significant changes to their lifestyle to lessen the impact on the environment.
Importance of the Issue of Food Waste to Consumers
- According to a German study, "58% of the consumers never or almost never waste food". However, only about 13% of German consumers seem to be receptive to recommendations and are willing to make efforts to reduce food waste.
- There appears to be a potential for improved food management. About 50% of food waste is rated as avoidable by German consumers themselves. In terms of age, older Germans have a lower tendency to waste food.
- Estimates by Thünen Institute reveal that "52% of the total amount of food waste is generated by private households." This percentage corresponds to roughly 75 kilograms per person per year.
- The German government introduced a program, Too Good for the Bin, as an educational policy tool to curb food wastage. Isle Aigner (the Minister for Food, Agriculture, and Consumer Protection) claimed that the campaign has been a huge success, earning an overwhelming response that has triggered numerous activities throughout Germany.
- According to Aigner, there have been positive responses from institutions and companies, as well as all the citizens who take part in the action. Overall, the government claims that the initiative has increased enthusiasm and awareness for food waste in Germany.
Perception of Relationship Between Food Waste and Sustainability
- Currently, research indicates that German consumers do not view food waste as an issue that is closely related to sustainability. Surveys and interviews reveal that people are quick to throw away their food due to the accessibility and abundance of food at supermarkets.
- Also, consumers usually assume that they waste very little food. The average German household does not seem to be aware of the amount of food waste they are contributing.
- While discussions about environmental issues and sustainability keep increasing, it remains unclear how German consumers perceive food waste and how far they are aware of the problems resulting from food waste.
Suggestions for Communicating Sustainability
- Currently, attention to sustainable articles and their production is at a high level in Germany. A recent study by inRiver reveals that 49% of German "consumers are willing to pay more for a product if it is clearly labeled as consisting of recycled materials or fully recyclable." Therefore, it is advisable to be transparent towards consumers as this has an influence on their purchasing behavior.
- For instance, "57% of consumers would return fewer items if retailers provided more information about the environmental footprint of a return."
- Secondly, a variety of personal reasons are important to German consumers when they are deciding to buy fairly traded products. Among these, the leading reasons "are being sure the manufacturer had not used child labor, fair prices for producers, as well as the quality of the product itself." Therefore, it is advisable to communicate these details to German consumers.