Amid cost of living, supply chain and climate pressures, more Australians are taking a hard look at their consumption and waste habits. Most people are concerned about the amount of waste in society and are asking businesses to play an active role in reducing it.

CommBank’s new Consumer Insights report shows the opportunity for hospitality venues to adopt sustainable business practices, including initiatives that meet the preferences of waste-conscious consumers.

“Half of consumers agree that the presence of sustainable practices is important when deciding where to visit, but only 11 per cent think there are enough venues with adequate practices in their price range,” says Peter Kennedy, CommBank’s National Manager – Hospitality.

“Above all, consumers want initiatives related to food waste, and encouragingly we speak to a lot of venues that are active in areas from sustainable sourcing of produce to food donations.”

These initiatives form part of Australia’s broader transition from a linear to a circular economy. The circular economy is generally considered a more sustainable framework for production and consumption that keeps materials, goods, and services in circulation for as long as possible.

In the hospitality sector, examples may include redistributing unused edible food to others in need or working with local suppliers to plan demand cycles and avoid surplus food production in the first place. It may also include using food waste to fertilise in a closed-loop system for those growing produce.

As recent economic and environmental events have put waste-conscious Australians on higher alert, the hospitality sector has a unique chance to mobilise patrons’ support for the circular, sustainable practices and its venues.

While there are rewards for businesses as more patrons decide where to eat and drink based on sustainability preferences, the broader benefits are also compelling. The circular economy is estimated to be a $2 trillion economic opportunity for Australia[1].

Educating and aligning with consumers

The research suggests that venues have a leadership role to play by aligning with the preferences of patrons and positively influencing behaviours. That’s because while people are active, fewer consumers participate in waste reduction activities requiring effort and planning.

A lack of awareness of the circular economy, its principles and benefits may be why it is still in its early stages in Australia. While only around one in four consumers surveyed already knew of the term, 66 per cent embraced circular principles once a definition was offered. The majority were also interested in learning more.

Moreover, once informed about the circular economy, almost two in three consumers believed that businesses must increase their support for the circular economy. This provides a window for venues to educate customers about their circular practices and launch programs and initiatives to make participation easier.

What consumers expect from venues

The Consumer Insights report reveals the top sustainability initiatives hospitality consumers want. It shows that access to some initiatives is now an expectation among consumers, and more broadly, many actively search for businesses that offer them.

Across the hospitality, food and beverage and accommodation sectors, there are common themes when it comes to initiatives consumers want to see. This includes supporting charitable causes and local suppliers, and reducing and repurposing food waste.

For hospitality venues, the top sustainability initiative that almost half of consumers want is for venues to donate unused food to charity. Over four in ten expect providers to cook with local produce, and 37 per cent believe it’s important for hospitality venues to compost food waste. Many also look for venues that avoid single-use items like coffee cups and efficiently use energy and water.

“From my discussions with operators, many are introducing even small initiatives. These include strengthening supplier relationships to meet demand for locally sourced produce, reducing energy and water use, and a range of other sustainable practices,” says Kennedy.

“There’s an opportunity to raise awareness about these initiatives among new and returning patrons and increase engagement online or on-site. Venues can also advance these programs with some confidence that most people say they’re happy to pay a little extra”.

As Lisa McLean, CEO of Circular Australia, said of the potential to make a positive difference.

“We need millions of organisations just doing their best to participate and educate, rather than only a few doing it exceptionally well,” says McLean.   

Generating shared benefits

With many consumers already deciding where they spend based on the sustainability initiatives businesses offer, being part of this movement is fast becoming imperative.

The latest Consumer Insights report examines consumers’ attitudes to waste and what they expect from businesses. This becomes essential reading for those seeking to implement sustainable practices, differentiate their purpose, and attract engaged patrons who recognise the value of these initiatives.

Read the full report, visit www.commbank.com.au/consumer-insights

About CommBank Consumer Insights

CommBank Consumer Insights is an exclusive, wide-ranging analysis of the Australian consumer with this edition focused on understanding consumer attitudes and expectations of their experiences in relation to the circular economy. This edition is based on an online quantitative survey conducted by ACA Research on behalf of the Commonwealth Bank. The survey was conducted in July and August 2022 and was completed by 5,633 consumers of goods and services.

Each respondent answered questions from one category within each of the following two questionnaire sections:

  • One of the following categories in which they own one item they don’t use, including: recreational sporting and outdoor goods (n=763), printed books, games, music and media (n=767), motor vehicle parts and accessories (n=750), consumer electronics (n=761), DIY building and garden tools and equipment (n=762), homewares and household appliances (n=764), fashion items (n=769). There were also 297 respondents that didn’t have any unused items in these categories.
  • One of the following categories which they use at least once a year, including: food and beverage services (n=1,395), fast food and quick service restaurants (n=1,395), accommodation (n=1,394) and personal care services (n=1,397). There were also 52 respondents that didn’t use these services.

The sample was selected to ensure the results are nationally representative. All statistics and references to consumers in this report are based on the responses to the survey unless otherwise stated.

Things you should know:

The report has been published for general information purposes only. As this information has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs, you should, before acting on this information, consider its appropriateness to your circumstances, if necessary, seek professional advice.

The Bank believes that the information in the report is correct and any opinions, conclusions or recommendations are reasonably held or made, based on the information available at the time of its compilation, but no representation or warranty, either expressed or implied, is made or provided as to accuracy, reliability or completeness of any statement made in the report.

Any projections and forecasts are based on a number of assumptions and estimates and are subject to contingencies and uncertainties. Different assumptions and estimates could result in materially different results. All analysis and views of future market conditions are solely those of the Commonwealth Bank.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124 AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 234945


[1] https://www.pwc.com.au/media/2021/circular-economy-to-grow-australian-GDP.html