Communiqués de presse

Sustainable product sales in the European Union are rising fast, study finds (en)

24 mai 2019
ITC Nouvelles
European retailers are shifting towards sourcing and selling products that are socially and environmentally sound.

(Brussels-Geneva) – Retailers in five major European markets are putting more products on their shelves that are environmentally and socially sustainable – because consumers ask for them.

Unveiled in Brussels today, the European Union Market for Sustainable Products reveals that 98.5% of retailers that were surveyed in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain consider sustainability as a factor in product sourcing. It also finds that 96% implement strategies to buy from sources that are certified as socially or environmentally sustainable, and that 76% have public commitments to sustainable sourcing strategies.

What’s more, nearly all retailers surveyed – 92% – expect that sales will keep rising for the foreseeable future.

As consumers demand more transparency on the sources of products that they buy – as well as greater engagement from the shops on environmental and social issues – retailers are adapting their global sourcing strategies.

‘Sustainability is not negotiable anymore,’ said Irina Coupé, who leads sustainable sourcing at Maisons du Monde, a French company specialized in home decoration and furnishings.

The European Union Market for Sustainable Products is the first study of its kind. It is the result of a two-year survey and analysis of data from retailers in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain. All of these markets have growing consumer demand for sustainably sourced products.

Many retailers report a rise in sales. In Spain, for example, half of the retailers reported increases of up to 30% over the past five years.

The highest commitments to sustainable sourcing were among Dutch (91%) and German (84%) retailers.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Cecilia Malmström, the European Commissioner for Trade, said: ‘In the EU we have put sustainability at the heart of our trade policy. This study shows that this was the right decision. Consumers increasingly care about where their products come from, and how they were made – they want to know that when they buy something, that the climate and workers’ rights have been respected. The good news is that retailers are beginning to respond. Today’s findings emphasise that we all have a role to play, as citizens, consumers, workers or entrepreneurs, in promoting open, fair and ethical trade.’

Reflecting on the crucial role that the demand for sustainable products plays for retailers and across value chains, ITC Executive Director Arancha González said: ‘This report carries an important message, especially for non-European businesses seeking to export to buyers in the EU: sustainability is key to your business model if you are to succeed in winning over European customers and consumers.’

The report based its findings on a survey of 1,832 retailers, with follow-up interviews of 550 enterprises, ranging from micro to large in size. It focused on eight categories: beverages; clothing; food; mobile phones; office and household furniture; printed materials; toys and games. The fastest-growing categories were toys and games, and mobile phones.

Key findings

  • Consumers in major European Union markets demand more social and environmental engagement from retailers, and greater transparency.
  • Retailers see a continuous rise in demand for sustainable products and are realigning their strategies with consumer demand.
  • Retailers are increasingly working in partnership with suppliers – both inside and outside the European Union – to introduce environmental and social standards.
  • The market sustains more retailers which founded their companies based on sustainability principles and strategies.
  • Policymakers should support retailers to accelerate the growing trend, as a way to transition to mainstream business models that are environmentally and socially conscious.
  • Suppliers in the EU and outside of it will find an economically viable, growing market for these products.

Download the European Union Market for Sustainable Products

About ITC - The International Trade Centre is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. ITC assists small and medium-sized enterprises in developing and transition economies to become more competitive in global markets, thereby contributing to sustainable economic development within the frameworks of the Aid-for-Trade agenda and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

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International Trade Centre
Jarle Hetland, Media Officer
P: + 41 22 730 0145
M: + 41 79 582 9180
E: hetland [at] (hetland[at]intracen[dot]org)