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Greta Thunberg changed consumer behaviours of Swiss shoppers

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The school strikes led by Greta Thunberg and her followers have made a tangible impression on consumer behavior. Research in Switzerland reveals that nearly one in three people has changed their behaviour.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg gained worldwide recognition in 2019 with her Fridays for Future movement, which inspired around 4 million students in 150 countries. Much has been written about its impact on politics, but no research had been conducted on its effects on consumer behavior.

Societal Impact

A Swiss study published in the journal Sustainability Science is changing that. “We specifically looked at people in Switzerland who did not participate in the protests,” says researcher Livia Fritz.

“We wanted to see if the movement resulted in concrete changes in their behavior.”

The scientists conducted a survey of 1206 Swiss consumers in October and November 2019, shortly after the peak of the protests. They asked general questions about the respondents’ environmental habits and more specific questions about changes in their habits.

The results indicate that the majority of respondents had a positive view of both Thunberg and the broader Fridays for Future movement. Interestingly, this positive perception translated into tangible changes in their daily habits, with nearly 30 percent reporting a change.

“Our research, however, only examined people’s perception of their behavior – we did not verify their statements,” says Fritz.

“But our findings indicate that people have become more aware of how their behavior affects the environment, and significant shifts are occurring at the individual level.”

Transport, shopping behavior, and recycling

Most of the reported changes occurred in three areas of the respondents’ daily lives: transportation, shopping behavior, and recycling. For example, people reported seeking alternatives to using cars, choosing vacation destinations closer to home to avoid flying, actively looking for local and organic products, and consuming more vegetarian meals. They also put in more effort to reduce waste, especially plastic.

“Our research shows that this kind of citizen activism can have a direct impact on society,” says Fritz. “We also observe that changes at the individual level can lead to broader societal changes, provided they are simultaneously supported by political action. Both impulses are necessary if we want to achieve long-term results in the timeframe required to mitigate global warming.”

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