Which? Consumers in 2030

It’s always interesting, and sometimes encouraging, to see more mainstream groups take an interest in sustainability issues. Which (a major UK consumer-interest group) have recently published Consumers in 2030: Forecasts and projections in conjunction with Forum for the Future.

The report takes into account two major factors: resource shortage (and consequent economic growth) and technological advances:

Our data and social trend analysis shows that in
2030, people in the UK could be living in a world
where slow growth, resource scarcity and rising
commodity prices have become the norm;
where demands on public finances will have
been impacted by demographic shifts, and where
ongoing scandals such as MPs’ expenses, gas price
fixing and the rigging of the Libor rate have led to
a crisis of trust in institutions.

As well as these social and economic trends,
technology will be revolutionising our homes, and the
way we run our lives. For example, increasing use of
robotics in the service industry – already familiar in the
form of self-service checkouts – could fundamentally
change the nature of customer service, making
personal ‘human’ service the new First Class.

A consequence of this is that levels of disposable income are likely to remain below the 2008 peak for at least the next two decades, and they note a worrying trend towards income inequality, so the poor end of society will continue to suffer.

There’s lots of good stuff in this report, and it’s well worth reading. But a surprising omission is the issue of climate change, the costs of extreme weather, and in particular increased risks of flooding. We already have a major consumer issue of housing that is impossible or prohibitively expensive to insure, and this and the other costs of mitigating against, or tidying up the damage from extreme weather seems to be a further major factor to be taken into consideration.

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