The price and health benefits of food far outweigh any concerns consumers have over sustainability and carbon footprint, a survey from the dairy industry has found.
The survey of more than 2,000 Irish consumers by the European Milk Forum found 91% still think all or most of the catastrophic consequences of climate change are preventable.
However, when it comes to buying food, 46% of people look at price, 34% at the nutritional make-up of products, and 31% at the health benefits.
By contrast, just 10% cited the carbon footprint as a leading factor in their decision-making, while just under one in five said sustainable packaging was of major concern.
The findings demonstrate that Irish political, industry and civil leaders had to up their efforts significantly when it comes to changing perceptions on sustainability and emissions, the chief executive of the National Dairy Council said.
Zoe Kavanagh, who is also spokesperson for the European Milk Forum in Ireland, said: “The survey tells us that an overwhelming majority, or 96%, believe in climate change, believe that we can prevent all or the most serious consequences of climate change and that the responsibility to create this more sustainable future needs a collaborative effort.”
The respondents said the responsibility lay between industry producers, consumers and politicians, she said.
“But with only two in five consumers feeling well-informed about sustainability, it is clear there is a lot of work to be done by stakeholders right across Government, civil society and industry,” she said.
Findings from the research included some 96% agreeing that climate change is already occurring or will occur in the near future and 70% are worried about climate change.
Some 57% of Irish people believe industry producers have the responsibility, while 49% believe consumers and politicians share responsibility for creating a more sustainable future.
The European Milk Forum survey was part of its “Sustainable Dairy in Europe campaign to gain what it called “a better understanding of consumers’ perceptions of sustainability, climate change and the challenges they pose in relation to the dairy sector”.
Ms Kavanagh claimed the research also demonstrated that Irish consumers value dairy products as well as our indigenous dairy industry.
“In these unprecedented times, it is heartening to know consumers are seeking out dairy products because they know they can rely on their natural nutritional value and they can be assured of the quality.
Irish dairy farmers and producers are committed to playing their part in a national effort to address climate change, Ms Kavanagh said.
They would do this by creating a more sustainable industry and protecting rural biodiversity.