Red bottlebrush

14 Sept 2021


WWF-Australia’s vision is to see our environment, people and wildlife thrive – and we know our fellow Aussies stand by us in this vision. During the last series of devastating bushfires, Australians literally took the shirts off their backs to save wildlife in peril. Together, we rejoiced when the rains came. And we celebrated when the first shoots of greenery popped up on the charred, blackened landscape.

Australia’s consumer behaviours are also changing, with growing interest in environmentally friendly purchases. Our interest in sustainability is particularly impressive when compared to other nations. And best of all? This interest is only increasing.

We’re calling this Australia’s ‘eco-wakening’.

‘An eco-wakening’: The Economist Intelligence Unit report 

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) – publisher of the well-known weekly newspaper, The Economist – is the world’s leading provider of country intelligence. Used by governments, institutions and businesses around the globe, it provides impartial analysis of economic and development strategies. 

WWF commissioned the EIU to measure global awareness, engagement and action for nature. We were particularly interested in learning about consumer behaviours. While there’s a strong global awareness of climate change, we suspected that public understanding of the extinction crisis was limited.

As part of our report, the EIU looked at data from 54 countries, covering 80% of the world’s population to find out whether people had engaged – or would be likely to engage – in certain actions. In addition social media, news media and Google search data provided a unique insight into real-time trends on sustainability and action for nature worldwide. 

And, the results certainly are interesting!

Australian Koala Hugging A Gum Tree
Koala hugging a tree in a forest © Jackson Photography -

What were the findings? 

The Report found serious biodiversity loss problems around the world. An estimated eight million species live on Earth. And one million of these species are currently facing extinction.

Even mammals, fish, birds, amphibians and reptiles that aren’t facing extinction right now have still had their populations lowered by an average of 68%. Only 7% of the world’s oceans are preserved. Only 15% of the land mass worldwide is protected. 

Scientists are labelling this phenomenon a ‘biological annihilation’. 

Biodiversity loss affects everything. We’ll say that again: it affects everything. That means it has a significant impact on:

  • Our soil: millions of species work to keep the soil beneath our feet healthy enough for us to grow quality produce to eat.
  • Our medicine: plants are essential for medicine. Our modern medical system relies on rainforest plants to create 25% of all pharmaceuticals.
  • Our economy: at the foundation of all economic growth is nature, and over half of the world’s income is at risk due to nature loss.

Biodiversity is also essential for our future. 

Australia ranked fifth in a list of the countries that will be worst hit economically due to nature loss, so it’s particularly important for us to take action. But WWF-Australia is concerned the average person doesn’t realise the serious impacts of biodiversity loss.

A green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) swimming off Heron Island Research Station= Queensland
© WWF / James Morgan

Does the world care about biodiversity loss? 

The EIU report clearly shows that worldwide awareness of nature and sustainability has steadily increased over the past few years. The report also found that people engage with nature differently depending upon how environmental changes personally impact them. 

Here’s a brief summary of selected changes in attitudes and behaviours regarding nature loss and biodiversity in response to the climate crisis across the globe.

Related social media posts 

  • Sub-Saharan Africa: Tweets increased by 168% 
  • India: Tweets grew by 550%
  • The UK: Tweets increased by 206%

Related news coverage

  • Brazil: News coverage increased by 148%
  • The UK: News articles increased 105%
  • South East Asia: News coverage increased by 77%

Online search behaviour

  • India: Related Google searches increased by 190%
  • United States: Searches for "sustainability" increased by 450%
  • The UK: Searches for “sustainability” grew by 800%

Consumer behaviours around the world

Perhaps one of the most striking statistics to note is that of sustainable and environmentally friendly purchasing searches in high income nations. 

According to a 2020 McKinsey & Company report, 66% of all respondents (and 75% of millennial respondents) said they consider sustainability when making a fashion purchase. In other words, customers expect the businesses they shop from to play a significant part in creating a better future. 

In support of this shift, the European Union (EU) introduced its 2020 Sustainable Products Initiative. As part of the initiative, new regulations will force companies that want to sell their products in Europe to meet far tougher sustainability regulations. When it comes to these regulations, the EU is prioritising high-impact categories, such as textiles, chemicals, furniture and electronics.

Sustainable products are also outperforming their non-sustainable counterparts in the UK. In China, 41% of consumers want environmentally friendly products. In India, sales of organic products have grown by 13%

This is a truly global phenomenon, driven by individuals who are having a systemic impact. 

Glass jars are a perfect eco-solution for buying in bulk
© WWF-Australia

What about Australia?

We know our fellow Australians care about restoring the nature we’ve lost. After all, we have the worst mammal extinction rate of any country in the world. So how do we compare in the statistics on nature and biodiversity loss?

Well, from 2016-2020, Australian tweets on the topic grew by 168%, compared to the global average of 65%. Online news articles grew by 407%, compared to the global average of 19%.

Between 2018 and 2019, media coverage of nature-based protests increased by a whopping 1199%, compared to the global average of 103%. This was partially due to the School Strike for Climate rallies that occurred around the country in September 2019. It was the largest protest in Australian history, with an estimated 300,000 participants.

Plastic Free July 2020
© Shutterstock / Mohammed Abdulraheew / WWF

Why do Australians care so much? 

WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman suggests that the devastating bushfires of 2019 and 2020 may well have a role to play in Australia’s eco-wakening.

“Given the unprecedented bushfire crisis, it’s understandable,” Dermot said. “But the surge of interest has also been driven by so many conservation groups working to raise awareness of nature-loss and the plight of Australia’s wildlife after the fires.”

Over 65% of Australian consumers now believe that brands are just as responsible as the government when it comes to driving positive social change. But without the Australian Government’s active support, we can’t adequately protect and restore our wildlife and bushland.

That’s why WWF launched Regenerate Australia: the largest wildlife and nature regeneration program in the nation’s history.

“The response of our government so far to the crisis is out of step with the level of public concern,” Dermot said. “Stronger funding and policy commitments are urgently required.”

Join the eco-wakening - commit, act, and advocate for nature

Businesses and individuals alike can have an extraordinary impact on driving environmental advocacy. When we stand together as Australians, we have the power to make organisations and governments listen and commit to change. 

Join us as we continue to protect nature against biodiversity loss, and work towards an even stronger eco-wakening.

To learn how we work work together visit: