According to research conducted by The Institute of Customer Service on behalf of insurer Zurich UK, companies that provide unsustainable products and services could see sales plummet over time.

Environmental sustainability has become the most important influence in buying behaviours for one in five (18%) of UK consumers. The study predicts that this could increase further to 55% in the next five years.

Sales may already be impacted by the growing demand for greener products and services. One in ten (12%) customers has ceased buying a product or service because of its negative environmental impact.

Food, drink, beauty, cosmetics, apparel and cleaning products were discovered to be the most likely to lose favour due to their failure to fulfil environmental standards.

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Chief marketing officer at Zurich UK, Richard Pash, said: “Climate change is perhaps the most complex risk facing society today. This research shows green is becoming increasingly mainstream and consumers want organisations to empower them to make more sustainable choices.

“They also want greater transparency. Sustainability goes much further than ad-hoc initiatives or gimmicks. Customers want to know how their green choices result in broader environmental benefit and be confident those they buy from are committed to sustainability right across their operations and supply chain.”

A substantial majority of customers (83%) believe businesses should do more to be ecologically friendly. Additionally, three-quarters of consumers (75%) expect businesses to assist them in becoming more environmentally conscious, whether through purchases or more general choices.

The study did uncover some roadblocks to buying greener products, namely quality and price. One in ten people (11%) has wished to acquire an environmentally sustainable product or service but have been unable to do so due to cost, reliability or quality concerns.

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However, price is not an issue for everyone. A third of consumers (34%) are willing to pay a 5.5% premium for environmentally sustainable products.

Chief executive officer at the Institute of Customer Service, Jo Causon, said: “Just like with the consumers themselves, there are some organisations who are early adopters and others who lag behind in their action. But I believe that now is the time for all businesses to take action.

“Those who serve their customers not only with quality and value but with sustainability built in will flourish, while those who ignore the issue are likely to lose customers and market share. The green agenda has moved from a nice-to-have to a core strategic issue.”