• 71% think businesses that use scarce natural resources should be taxed, according to a new Ipsos survey.
  • 85% want to see appropriate product labelling on goods.
  • Agreement was strongest in developing economies.
  • Moving away from a ‘take-make-dispose’ approach to a more circular economy is considered a key strategy in combatting climate change.

A growing number of people are willing to pay extra for the things they buy, if it helps protect the planet’s scarce natural resources.

A survey carried out by Ipsos for the World Economic Forum has found that 71% of people agree that businesses whose activities use scarce natural resources should pay additional taxes – even if that pushes up the purchase price of goods and services.

An even greater majority – 85% of adults across 28 countries – said they want to see “information on the use of scarce natural resources” available on product labelling.

A dividing line

A total of 19,510 adults were quizzed online by Ipsos between 21 May and 4 June 2021. On a country-by-country basis, their responses reveal a pattern emerging.

Although there are some exceptions, on the whole, the willingness to see taxes and price increases to protect scarce resources was stronger in developing economies.

China, India, Colombia, Chile and Peru are the top five countries where people believe such an arrangement is a good idea. The bottom five are: Japan, Poland, the US, Germany and Hungary.

There was a similar developed/developing economy split in the responses to the idea of product labelling. Broadly, developing countries were more enthusiastic. Resistance to the idea of natural resource labelling was less pronounced, however.

In response to the statement about paying more for things that use finite resources, the strongest opposition was in Japan – 54% disagreed or strongly disagreed. Japan was also the country where people were less inclined toward labelling changes. But in this case, 21% disagreed and 5% strongly disagreed.

Lifestyle changes

The split in response between developed and developing nations is reflected in a 2020 report in the science journal Nature Communications, which states that the predominant economic models across the world are responsible for negative environmental impacts.

The increase of CO2 in the atmosphere shares a very similar trajectory to indicators like GDP growth and something called material footprint, which describes raw material extraction rates.

As the report’s authors state, “Any transition towards sustainability can only be effective if far-reaching lifestyle changes complement technological advancements”.

a graph showing the rise of global economic and environmental indicators (1970 to 2017)
The rise and rise of global economic and environmental indicators (1970 to 2017).
Image: Scientists’ warning on affluence/Nature Communications

What are the solutions?

The need to reduce consumption and waste appears to be widely acknowledged in the Ipsos data. But how to go about it?

Moving away from our current linear ‘take-make-dispose’ approach to a more circular economy is considered a key strategy by the World Economic Forum.

Proponents of the circular economy are putting forward alternative ways of production that will help address some of the problems of over-consumption. The circular economy is based on three main principles:

  • Products should be designed to use fewer resources and contribute less waste
  • Materials used to produce goods should be reused and repurposed
  • Natural resources should be protected and replaced

These principles also inform The Circulars Accelerator, an initiative launched by Accenture in partnership with Anglo American, Ecolab, Schneider Electric and the World Economic Forum, to support entrepreneurs in finding innovative solutions to sustainability challenges.


What is the World Economic Forum doing about the circular economy?

The World Economic Forum has created a series of initiatives to promote circularity.

1. Scale360° Playbook was designed to build lasting ecosystems for the circular economy and help solutions scale.

Scale360° Playbook Journey
Image: Scale360° Playbook

Its unique hub-based approach - launched this September - is designed to prioritize circular innovation while fostering communities that allow innovators from around the world to share ideas and solutions. Emerging innovators from around the world can connect and work together ideas and solutions through the UpLink, the Forum's open innovation platform.

Discover how the Scale360° Playbook can drive circular innovation in your community.

2. A new Circular Cars Initiative (CCI) embodies an ambition for a more circular automotive industry. It represents a coalition of more than 60 automakers, suppliers, research institutions, NGOs and international organizations committed to realizing this near-term ambition.

CCI has recently released a new series of circularity “roadmaps”, developed in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), McKinsey & Co. and Accenture Strategy. These reports explain the specifics of this new circular transition.

Connect to Learn More

3. The World Economic Forum’s Accelerating Digital Traceability for Sustainable Production initiative brings together manufacturers, suppliers, consumers and regulators to jointly establish solutions and provide a supporting ecosystem to increase supply chain visibility and accelerate sustainability and circularity across manufacturing and production sectors.

Connect to Learn More →