96% of adults in UAE willing to take personal action on sustainability issues

April 22, 2021 | Dubai, UAE

Study of 24 countries shows the pandemic is prompting billions1 to consider more sustainable behaviors

  • Over four in five (83%) adults in the UAE are more mindful of their impact on the environment since COVID-19
  • Almost three quarters of adults in the UAE (74%), say companies behaving in more sustainable and eco-friendly ways is more important than before

As Earth Day is observed around the world today, new research on sustainability, commissioned by Mastercard, reveals a marked increase in consumer passion for the environment, as personal attitudes toward the environment evolve as a result of COVID-19.

In the UAE, 96% of adults stated they’re willing to take personal action to combat environmental and sustainability issues, as compared to 85% globally. Four in five (83%) adults in the country also said they are even more mindful of their impact on the environment since COVID-19.

Social media appears to be driving an increase of environmentally conscious consumers in the UAE, with 98% respondents seeing information about climate change across social media channels. One in five (22%) started following an environmental activist or influencer on social media for the first time.

This signals a growing trend toward eco-conscious spending and consumption among people who want to turn their efforts and purchases into meaningful action for the planet.

Eco-actions essential for forward-thinking brands and businesses

Nearly three quarters (74%) of adults in the UAE think it’s now more important for businesses and brands to do more for the environment. In terms of their planned actions for 2021, over a quarter (28%) said they are going to stop using or buying from brands that do not have a plan to help the environment or behave sustainably.

Since the pandemic, consumers have also engaged in first-time actions related to sustainability. One in six adults in the UAE (15%) admitted that for the first time, they have boycotted companies that have not adopted sustainable values.

Buying less impulsively by being more aware of purchases is one of the top changes UAE respondents will make as a result from COVID-19.

Specifically, respondents in the UAE highlighted the top three issues they want companies and brands to focus on, besides dealing with the pandemic. They want brands to focus on the health and wellbeing of their employees (41%), a reduction of air and water pollution (31%), and more sustainable and durable products (31%).

“Companies, consumers and communities must work together to make the significant changes needed to effectively address climate change," said Jorn Lambert, Chief Digital Officer, Mastercard. "By embedding sustainability into the very fabric of our business – from pay-on-demand solar energy products to tools that help inform consumer spending – we can unlock the power of our network, reaching billions of consumers and partners, to create positive change for the environment.”

Eco-conscious consumers more aware of their actions    

Seven in ten adults surveyed in the UAE (72%) feel reducing their carbon footprint is more important now than pre-pandemic. Globally, almost three in five people (58%) have become more conscious about how their actions can impact the environment than ever before, with Gen-Z and Millennials (65%) leading this shift.

The trend toward more conscious consumption has grown over the last decade. However, changes in attitudes and actions have increased at a rapid rate as a direct result of COVID-19.

Mastercard is equipping its global network to be a positive force for the environment

Last year, Mastercard formed the Priceless Planet Coalition which unites the efforts of consumers, financial institutions, merchants and cities to fight climate change. The Priceless Planet Coalition continues to expand and now includes more than 50 members, including Expo 2020 Dubai, Network International and Emirates NBD.

Collectively, the coalition has committed to the restoration of 100 million trees. Planning is already underway for the restoration of 1.2 million trees in Kenya’s Makuli Nzaui landscape.

Ahmed Al Khatib, Chief Development and Delivery Officer, Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “The consensus is clear, with this latest research cementing our collective duty to help build a sustainable future – a crucial building block to long-term prosperity. As the largest ever staged in the Arab world, we have embraced our unique opportunity to create a meaningful and measurable impact beyond the site, and beyond the six months of Expo – integrating sustainability into all our experiences as part of a wider commitment to create positive change on a local, national, regional and global scale.”

Moadh Bukhash, Chief Marketing Officer, Group Marketing & Customer Experience, Emirates NBD, said: “These findings demonstrate that consumers are recognizing the positive potency of their buying power – whether by purchasing from sustainable brands, or considering their consumption in general, based on environmental consciousness. As a customer-centric brand that has always championed sustainability, we are pleased to strengthen our collaboration with like-minded partners through platforms like Mastercard’s Priceless Planet Coalition, which combines consumer passion with corporate collaboration.”

Ahmed Bin Tarraf, Regional President – UAE, Network International, said: “Mastercard’s latest research sheds light on the growing consciousness towards sustainability, among consumers and businesses alike. As a Priceless Planet Coalition partner, we continue our collaboration to expand greater awareness, action and resources by tapping into the potential of our extensive merchant base in effecting positive environmental engagement.” 

Mastercard continues to support partners, customers and consumers by offering environmentally focused products and services, such as cards made from sustainable materials to reduce plastic waste. The company has also pledged to reach net zero emissions by 2050, building on existing commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aligned with 1.5-degrees Celsius. Mastercard has also issued a $600 million sustainability bond and recently announced changes to its executive compensation model to help accelerate progress around three global ESG goals: carbon neutrality, financial inclusion and gender pay parity. This is all in support of the company’s goal of building a more sustainable and inclusive digital economy.