• Kira Day

Aussies are concerned about the state of the world. They’re looking to businesses to make it better.

Purpose-led brands – it’s no longer a matter of if, but how, you are doing good in the world.

When COVID hit, Ben sensed a collective disappointment amongst for-purpose businesses.

“In 2019, there was a real momentum behind the sustainability movement…especially with climate.” But as businesses and people turned their focus to pandemic survival, people like Ben worried that the short-term thinking of decades prior was bound to return.

”It hasn’t turned out that way, thankfully,” says Ben Peacock, Founder of Republic of Everyone, a Sydney-based B Corp and sustainability and brand impact creative consultancy. “But at the time [when COVID was starting to take hold] it was a real question for us: what was in people’s minds before, is that still there now? Do they still care as much? Or do they care about different things?”

“We realised that there was absolutely no research on that in Australia.”

So, The Power and the Passion was born: an in-depth research piece about what issues Australians care about the most right now, how concerned they are, and what actions they are willing to take on them.

The big issues

While COVID-19 dominated the news cycles of 2020 (and, unfortunately, 2021), the team at Republic of Everyone wanted to know what Aussies were concerned about beyond the pandemic.

The number one issue was our oceans, including pollution, overfishing, and the Great Barrier Reef. The second was climate change, and plastic waste came in third.

An infographic showing that survey respondents were mostly concerned about our oceans, climate change, and plastic waste.

Respondents were also asked to share their level of concern across twenty social and environmental issues to help answer one vital question: are Australians actually that concerned, or are they really as laid back as stereotypes suggest?

“What the data tells us is that in general, concern among Australians is really, really, high,” says Republic of Everyone’s Emily Saunders.

Of the 20 issues presented in the survey, more than half of respondents were concerned about all of them. At least 80% of respondents were concerned about the top nine — the top six of which were environmental.

“COVID has given us an example of how fragile our society and our planet and our relationships and everything we do can be,” says Ben.

“People have had a little flavour of how breakdown happens, and it has raised concerns across all these issues that everyone knew was coming – but there was maybe not the urgency before.”

“I think people are starting to understand more and more how these things are connected,” Emily says.

“Climate change is the umbrella issue that has the most attention…but people are starting to understand how that relates to other issues like the loss of habitat, or degradation of oceans, or even the unequal way it is impacting communities of colour.”

Changing expectations for brands and businesses

The data shows that Australians are concerned, but does that translate to real action? As it turns out, it does.

The Power and the Passion shows that almost four in five Australians say brands and products should support causes, or make changes to their products that address social and environmental issues. Meanwhile, almost three in five actively look for products and brands that support causes or have environmentally-friendly attributes.

An infographic that shows that people seek products that have a positive social or environmental impact.

But do people actually put their money where their mouth is? “Overwhelmingly, yes,” says Emily. Six in ten Australians indicated that they will pay more for products that support causes or have lower environmental impacts.

Businesses may have sensed incremental differences in recent years, but a much larger market shift is set to take place as wealth and power move into younger generations, like Generation Z and Millennials. “They might not have the most money now, but they’re only five, ten, twenty years away from being the primary purchasing audiences,” says Emily.

“They are demanding more of business, they are demanding more of their elected representatives. We see them suing super funds and companies, we see them taking people to court, we see them marching and protesting.”

“If brands and businesses aren’t paying attention to what Gen Z and Millennials are saying now, they’re just putting themselves on the back foot for the next five or ten years.”