Consumer behaviour and the gap between 'saying' and 'doing’

Publication date: October 5, 2021

Make it easy and fun for consumers to dispose of packaging in the right way, in the right bin. Why don't consumers do this, even if they say that they care about the environment? The gap between saying and doing is big.

Consumer behaviour and the gap between 'saying' and 'doing’

During the webinar Consumer Behaviour and Sustainable Packaging by the KIDV and MyPack, various researchers shed light on consumer behaviour in relation to the design and disposal of packaging. And, importantly, what companies can do with this knowledge.

Listen to the webinar here.

Hosting this webinar was one of the KIDV's contributions to the MyPack programme. This is an international research programme on innovative packaging to reduce food waste and packaging waste. With participants from France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Greece and Switzerland. Wageningen University & Research conducted three scientific studies on strategies and methods to encourage consumers to adopt more sustainable behaviour by making packaging more sustainable. During the webinar, these findings were combined with the results of research into consumer behaviour by the University of Groningen (RUG) and market research agency IPSOS.

After a short introduction by the KIDV and MyPack, associate professor Ellen van der Werff was the first speaker to give an interesting insight into consumers and their discarding behaviour. To change this ("We don't need climate change but behavioural change"), just a logo on the packaging is not enough. "In our research we actually saw that information on packaging hardly contributes to behavioural change. Knowledge, motivation and context are determining factors. It's about understanding and accepting why change is necessary. Then people get motivated and that can be for different reasons. For example, because there is a financial benefit, or because they really care about the environment, or because it just makes them feel good," says Van der Werff. "Context also plays an important role: how difficult or easy it is to dispose of empty packaging in the right way. If there are no waste bins or you have to walk a long way to throw away your rubbish bag, it doesn't help."

Click here for the presentation from Ellen van der Werff.

PhD researcher Giulia Granato of Wageningen University & Research presented the results of research she conducted as part of the MyPack programme. The concept of a meaningful reminder was researched. In other words: what kind of implicit or explicit signals work to convey to consumers that the packaging they are holding is sustainable? Through three different studies, Granato tested with consumer panels how consumers react to explicit packaging elements (e.g. sustainability logos, explanations on the label, etc.) and implicit elements (sound, feeling, appearance). The results of these studies will soon be published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. Afterwards, they can also be found on the websites of Mypack ( and the WUR (

Click here for the presentation from Giulia Granato.

The question is: what do companies gain from the research results? One thing is clear, according to IPSOS researcher Christel de Bruijn: "Companies nowadays don't just say they think sustainability is important, but under the influence of climate change they really believe it and are working on it. Sustainable and responsible business is a key to success, also when it comes to binding employees to their company, as well as consumers. What makes it difficult for companies is that for many consumers sustainability is not yet a decisive factor and they are not satisfied with compromises. New packaging must not come at the expense of taste or price. Studies do show that consumers are willing to pay a higher price for sustainable products. But how much more and does that also apply to the packaging? The gap between saying and doing is huge. Recently, we conducted a survey in the United Kingdom among young people who say they consider sustainability very important but do shockingly little about it in practice. Here lies a challenge for companies, I would say."

Click here for the presentation of Christel de Bruijn.

At the moment Tao Heslenfeld is working at the KIDV to develop a tool about sustainable consumer behaviour in relation to food packaging. If your company would like to participate as a test user, please send an e-mail to


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