THE COST of living crisis is hitting Scotland's attempts to tackle climate change - as people prioritise cutting household costs before being environmentally friendly.

New research on consumer habits has revealed that just four in 100 Scots are likely to prioritise the environment over price while more than one in ten (13%) said that environmental factors were not important to them when shopping for goods and services.

The research by consultants Accenture shows that half of Scots (50%) say the rising cost of living is making them prioritise price over environmental sustainability when they shop.

And the vast majority (59%) agreed that the energy price cap rise will negatively impact their efforts to be more sustainable.

Consumers also called out the role of businesses, with over half (55%) of respondents in Scotland agreeing that companies are not doing enough to limit carbon emissions in products and services.

Overall, Accenture's annual UK Carbon Consumption Index analysis found that carbon emissions across the UK increased less than expected in 2021 with the easing of national lockdown restrictions.

Households’ average weekly CO2 emissions actually rose by less than 1%, from 315kg in 2020 to 317kg in 2021. This is despite household expenditure increasing by over 15% over the same period in cash terms. It was expected to be a bigger rise post-Covid.

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Karen White, corporate citizenship & sustainability lead for Accenture in Scotland said: “While a marginal increase in household emissions across the UK may show consumers taking up more sustainable consumption habits, the rising cost of living is clearly having an impact on people’s ability to consume more responsibly.

“Consumers in Scotland and across the UK really need help reducing their carbon consumption. There is clearly demand for businesses to help show them the way by developing innovative, cost-effective and sustainable alternatives that make it easier for Scots to prioritise sustainability.”

According to the study, the steps brands could take to encourage people to shop more sustainably, clearer advice on packaging around how to recycle was identified by Scottish consumers as the most effective (58%), followed by rewards/incentives for recycling/returning the product (57%) and refill schemes (52%) and lower costs for sustainable products (52%).

Across the UK the biggest jump in carbon emissions was amongst the under 30s – a 6% increase to 125kg in average weekly carbon emissions per household member.

At the same time, two-thirds of this age group (65%) said that environmental sustainability is important to them – the highest of any age group surveyed.

Overall, average weekly emissions per household member was the highest for the 65 to 74 age group in 2021 at 164kg, followed by 50 to 64 year-olds at 156kg. Housing, fuel, and power were still the biggest sources of carbon emissions, making up just over two-fifths of UK households’ CO2 emissions in 2021, though overall emissions dropped.

The Herald: Each of the award categories focuses on an area in which rural businesses are positively impacting Scotland’s economy and environment.

This suggests that consumers may have invested in making their homes more energy efficient, as all products in this category saw significant reductions in their emissions intensity, including gas and electricity emissions, which fell by 18% and 9% respectively.

Despite challenges around the cost of living crisis impacting consumers’ ability to make greener consumption choices, respondents said they would consider behavioural changes to both cut costs and be more sustainable - although, cost was the more important factor.

Some 79% would cut back on heating to save money and 26% said they would do so for environmental reasons.

Some 69% said they would cut down on food waste to reduce costs, compared to 37% who would do so to be more sustainable. Toby Siddall, sustainability lead for Accenture in the UK and Ireland added: “Given the challenging economic environment, sustainable products and services need to be positioned as a cost-effective option for the consumer, not a premium choice.

"Shifting towards more circular and sustainable business models will help businesses achieve this by spurring innovation in products and production efficiency. Businesses can only make sustainability a real force for change by embedding it into the heart of their operations to drive more sustainable consumption among their customers and wider society.”