Despite climate concern, fewer Canadians have changed their consumption habits than before the pandemic

Women lead climate-conscious changes in Canada; key generational differences in the steps adopted

The author(s)

  • Sanyam Sethi Director, CA, Public Affairs
Get in touch

Toronto, 3 November 2021 — While over half (56%) of Canadians say they have modified their consumer behaviour out of concern about climate change over the past few years, this is a decrease by 12 percentage points since January 2020 (68%). This decline in behavioural change due to climate concern is seen across all 29 countries[1] surveyed from September 24th to October 28th, 2021, suggesting that personal safety and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic took precedence over environmental impact. The survey reached over 23,000 respondents using Ipsos’ Global Advisor online platform.

Canada ranks 14th out of 29 countries to make the most changes to the products and services they buy or use out of climate change concern

Canadians have either made a lot of changes (13%, below the global average at 17%) or few changes (43%, above the global average at 39%) to the products and services they buy or use out of concern about climate change, placing them 14th on the list of those who have said “yes” to making any change. Their placement ranks below India (76%, down 12 percentage points since Jan-2020), Mexico (74%, -12pts), Chile (73%, -13pts) and China (72%, -13pts), the four countries that lead the charge in this regard.

Canadians who have not made any changes to their consumption habits represent 31% of the population, the same as the global average.

Consumption changes out of concern about climate change, by country

Recycling/sorting/composting is the top climate-conscious change among Canadians

Recycling, sorting waste and composting more often than they did in previous years is the most common behavioural change among Canadians (64%) due to climate concern, ranking well above the global average of 46%. Among all the 29 countries surveyed, Canadians are second only to those residing in Belgium (65%) in their commitment to recycling, waste sorting and composting.

Avoiding throwing food away, e.g., eating leftovers, giving away uneaten food (48%), saving energy at home (42%) and buying fewer new things (40%) were cited to be among the top four most common climate-conscious changes among Canadians.

Key generational differences in adopted practices and consumption patterns

Older Canadians demonstrate a stronger commitment to recycling, sorting waste and composting in comparison to the younger age groups (Canadians aged 50-74 years: 72%, 35-49 years: 64% vs. those under the age of 35: 52%). Older Canadians also take the lead when it comes to saving energy at home (e.g., installing insulation or switching to more efficient lightbulbs): 50% of those aged 50 to 74 years report an increased effort, followed by 44% of those aged 35-49 years, a proportion much higher than among those under 35 (30%).

However, when it comes to some of the other climate-conscious changes, Canadians under 35 years are ahead of the curve. More than one-third of those under 35 are more committed now to buying sustainable products (e.g., clothes or furniture made from recycled materials) than they were before. This compares to one-fourth or fewer among older age groups who have switched to greener products (Under 35: 37% vs. 35-49 years: 26% vs. 50 – 74: 21%).

Younger generations are also eating less dairy, e.g., replacing dairy products with alternatives such as soya/ soy milk (Under 35: 21%, 35-49 years: 15% vs. 50 – 74: 6%), and taking public transit/cycling or walking more often out of concern for climate change (Under 35: 25% vs. 50 – 74: 14%).

An impending shift in expectations from brands of choice is underlined by the consensus among all age groups on certain aspects: all generations are making a similar amount of effort to eat less meat (20%) and avoid products that have a lot of packaging (33%).

Women are making more consumption conscious changes than men

When it comes to gender differences, Canadian women are at the forefront of adopting environment-friendly habits. Women are more likely to recycle, sort waste and compost (69%, 10 percentage points higher than men). A similar trend is observed when it comes to avoiding food waste (54%, 13 pts higher than men) and buying fewer new things (46%, 13pts higher than men). Women are also more likely to buy sustainable things, e.g., clothes or furniture made from recycled materials (32%, 9 pts higher than men), saving energy at home (46%, 10pts higher than men), saving water at home (42%, 11pts higher than men), and buying more sustainable food, e.g., locally grown, organic or sustainably sourced food (39% Women, 13 pts higher than men).

On average, across the 29 countries surveyed, women are generally more likely than men to report changing their behaviour because of climate concerns. While the general trend of women outpacing men in their action towards environment-friendly choices holds in the global averages, the extent of differences between the behaviours of men and women are more pronounced among Canadians for some of the actions highlighted above.

Activities undertaken out of concern for climate change, by gender

Canadians think fellow citizens are making less climate-conscious changes compared to them personally

To find out whether consumers feel they are more or less engaged in fighting climate change than other people in their community, survey respondents were also asked about changes their neighbours may have made out of concern about climate change.

On average globally, three in ten (30%) say their neighbours have made at least some changes to the products and services they buy or use, a third (34%) say their neighbours have not made any changes, and nearer two in five (37%) state they are not sure. Canadians fall a little behind in their opinion about the effort from their neighbours with 24% saying their neighbours have made changes to the usual purchase basket out of climate change concern.

When evaluating their neighbours on the specific behavioural changes made more often to reduce the negative impact on climate change, Canadians say 33% of their neighbours were recycling, sorting waste or composting more often than they did previously. This contrasts starkly with 64% of Canadians who lay claim to practicing enhanced waste segregation, recycling and composting practices than before. Similarly, perceptions about neighbour’s behaviours fall behind self-action on other practices as well, e.g. saving energy at home (13% vs. personally 42%), avoiding throwing away food (12% vs. personally 48%) and saving water at home (11% vs. personally 36%).

Almost half (51%) of Canadians feel their fellow citizens were not yet incorporating any of the listed responsible practices to fight climate change.

About the Study

These are the results of a 29-country survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform. Ipsos interviewed a total of 23,055 adults aged 18-74 in the United States, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, and Turkey, 16+ in Norway, and 16-74 in 23 other markets between 24 September – 8 October 2021.

The sample consists of approximately 1,000 individuals in each of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, mainland China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Norway, Spain, and the U.S., and 500 individuals in each of Argentina, Chile, Hungary, India, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, and Turkey.

The samples in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the U.S. can be taken as representative of their general adult population under the age of 75. The sample in Norway is representative of those 16+.

The samples in Brazil, Chile, mainland China, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Turkey are more urban, more educated, and/or more affluent than the general population. The survey results for these markets should be viewed as reflecting the views of the more “connected” segment of their population.

Weighting was then employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to the most recent country Census data.

The “Global Country Average” reflects the average result for all countries and markets where the survey was conducted. It has not been adjusted to the population size of each country and is not intended to suggest a total result.

Where results do not sum to 100 or the difference appears to be plus or minus one point more or less than the actual, this may be due to rounding, multiple responses, or the exclusion of “don’t know” or not stated responses.

The precision of Ipsos online polls is calculated using a credibility interval with a poll of 1,000 accurate to plus or minus 3.5 percentage points and of 500 accurate to plus or minus 5.0 percentage points. For more information on the use of credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website.

The publication of these findings abides by local rules and regulations.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Sanyam Sethi
Director, Ipsos Public Affairs
[email protected]

Lisa Byers
Account Manager, Ipsos Public Affairs
[email protected]


About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world's third-largest Insights and Analytics company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts, and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions, and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers, or employees. We serve more than 5,000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

ISIN code FR0000073298, Reuters ISOS.PA, Bloomberg IPS:FP


[1] Except Norway and Colombia where this question was not asked in the 2020 survey

The author(s)

  • Sanyam Sethi Director, CA, Public Affairs