Global Trends 2020

Wider vice, narrowing trust … where next?

One of the marked trends alongside globalisation has been the march of national regulation. Consumers have long accepted regulation in industries such as alcohol, tobacco and gambling, but they are fast becoming used to increased regulation around newly enshrined ’vices’ such as sugar, soft drinks and fast food. But what is next? Consumers want to know who will be responsible for driving changes they expect to see. The majority globally say government should do more to regulate big business.

Consumer power to define and lead this is ever growing, however, they also expect businesses to act responsibly and provide guidance.

What does this mean for big business? Some have recently shown they can provide positive self-regulation, and received positive media coverage as a result.

Signals here come from Coca-Cola, which has boldly dispensed with its iconic green bottle colour to make its plastic packs more easily recyclable. Philip Morris has committed in a very public way to ‘end smoking’ as we know it by 2030 – eliminating their production in the very category they helped build. Meanwhile, Apple won’t permit tobacco-related apps on their App Store, and Facebook employees have petitioned founder Mark Zuckerberg to be tougher on what the platform will and will not host and support. The UK’s All Bar One bar chain recently issued a statement saying that ‘hundreds of tweets, Instagram messages and Facebook posts’ had made them reconsider offering plastic straws with drinks (#StrawsSuck).

Will business lead government to act on issues such as climate change or inequality? This may be fanciful, but discerning consumption will be a direction for the 2020s. Consumers in many markets are expecting companies and government to do more to regulate for the greater good, and six in ten say they will buy more from brands that are behaving more responsibly, even if it means spending more.

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