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Our human moment: cracking the code


In brief

  • In trying to make sustainability relevant, most organizations miss something critical: people’s worldviews. 

  • We introduce six Life-centric Archetypes that organizations can use to crack the code and bring everyone along on the journey to live sustainably. 

  • The Our Human Moment approach is designed to steer the reinvention of consumption in new directions while helping organizations stay relevant. 

Thinking about sustainability differently

Sustainability. A word with a big job to do, and high hopes invested in it. The ‘S word’ has dominated organizations’ attempts to influence people’s behavior when shifting towards more sustainable forms of consumption. To date, that approach has had limited success – it hasn’t motivated most people, nor has it mobilized mass demand for sustainable consumption. The problem is that people overwhelmingly want to live sustainably, but organizations are not delivering.


of people want sustainability to be a part of their lives


of people are encouraged by businesses, large or small, to take sustainable action

But what happens if we broaden the lens?

In this report we reveal the crucial puzzle piece we’ve been missing: how people view the world and their role in it, and what this means for how they relate to sustainability. By capturing this dynamic with six Life-centric Archetypes, we show how organizations can help people live more sustainably to reinvent consumption and themselves for the better. 

Why are organizations not inspiring sustainable action? 

The simple answer is because organizations have focused on making humans more sustainable and not on making sustainability more human.

  • We can’t only focus on the ‘S word’ anymore – 69% of people claim to take action to live in ways that benefit others and the planet. When the word 'sustainability' is included, that number drops to 54%.

  • We can’t only focus on the planet anymore – 83% of people consider human goals as reasons to live sustainably. This is nearly equivalent to the 86% who cite planetary goals.

  • We can’t only focus on affordability anymore – the top variable separating people taking action to live sustainably from those not taking action are identity and wellbeing, not affordability.

Life-centric Archetypes are a great place to start

Six Life-centric Archetypes capture people’s worldviews and relationship to sustainable living – characterizing people’s different starting points on their journey to live sustainably and shedding light on the tailored modes of engagement needed for each. Think of an archetype as a “best-fit” model for any individual. Understanding worldviews, together with how people think about sustainability, unlocks opportunities for organizations to make sustainable consumption and living more relevant and practical for everyone. This is how companies can crack the code.

Life-centric Archetypes
Life-centric Archetypes

Note: Percentages represent share of global sample

The belief that you can’t change the course of events. 

We don’t have the power to change things and the future looks bleak, so we may as well live in the moment and prioritize ourselves. There’s no good argument for living sustainably, especially because it’s pricey. I don’t know what’s in it for me, and I’m not interested in hearing anything different, especially if businesses are doing the talking. Best to stay on the sidelines.

The belief that the future is blurry and uncertain.

The future is blurry and uncertain, but not unpredictable, so we don’t need to overthink things. It's OK to act on impulse, but I do struggle to become motivated. I’m not sure about living sustainably and think it’s isolating and ill-defined. Perhaps ‘being sustainable’ will make others think differently about me or distance me from them. It might damage my ability to care for other people too.

The belief that others’ needs come before your own.

I put others first and worry there’s not enough for everyone. This makes me worry about the future and I become discouraged easily. I know we have to keep going, so I try to live for today, but I’m not sure I’m in control of what comes next. I’m open to the idea of living sustainably but want to make sure it doesn’t stop me from caring for others.

The belief that quality of life is the priority.

The future will be better than today, as has always been the case. I'm fully in control of my life and think my decisions make a difference. I believe health and well-being are crucial and don’t hesitate to put myself first. Living sustainably can help me realize these goals, I just need to make sure it improves my quality of life and helps me protect loved ones at the same time.

The belief that real challenges exist, but can be tackled.

Life is predictable and there will always be enough to go around, so I never despair, but we must act to create a better future. Climate change impacts me personally – we have to save the planet and protect people from natural disasters. I’m committed to this fight and draw inspiration from those around me, but I need help. I’m juggling my effort to live sustainably with other priorities and want businesses to step up and work with me.

The belief that you can change the world for the better.

We should all have hope because our individual actions can change the world. Sustainability is the right thing to do – it matters for the planet and our environment. Also, a sustainable life is more fulfilling.  News from around the world compels me to live sustainably. I’m in this fight. Businesses need to fight with me.

This approach is enabling organizations to move forward 

The Our Human Moment approach is designed to steer the necessary reinvention of consumption in new directions while helping organizations stay relevant and stay the course during these turbulent times. We believe organizations can bring everyone along on the journey as they adopt new business models and innovation practices – reinventing while remaining relevant.

Our Human Moment can propel sustainable transitions in the following ways:

Create more robust audience definitions for increased relevancy.

Companies need to engage people as strongly as possible with sustainable consumption, including people who show little to no interest in engaging. To create even stronger audience definitions, companies can bring Life-centric Archetype data into dialogue with their existing demographic, sales or media engagement data. Doing so will help them adjust more nimbly to different industry contexts and the shifts of everyday life.

Deliver sustainability communications that connect with everyone.

Many organizations are already producing more sustainable products and services. But this traction hasn’t yet resulted in sustainable consumption becoming the norm. There’s an obvious challenge to address: how do we wrap these propositions up in more compelling ways? Using the Our Human Moment approach, companies can align stories, messages and imagery with people’s hopes, fears and lives, reaching more people more powerfully.

Move sustainable innovation forward in ways that resonate with people strongly.

An Our Human Moment approach can help organizations signpost to the diverse ways sustainability comes to life and build a deeper understanding of how to activate sustainable actions. For example, when thinking about product design and use, it encourages us to see how different people might be compelled to behave in the same way for very different reasons, shaping product materials and delivery mechanics.

Shape transformational efforts around a shared understanding of what sustainability is.

The Our Human Moment approach gives people in organizations a common language for talking about sustainability internally. In this way, the archetypes can help companies tailor interventions and modes of engagement, including training and multi-team workshops, so that organizations can make sustainability more relevant and actionable for internal colleagues and stakeholders as well as consumers. 

Note: All datapoints are sourced from a global general population online survey among 8,000 people across 11 markets (Accenture analysis 2023)


Mark Curtis

Global Sustainability and Thought Leadership Lead – Accenture Song

Oliver Pattenden

Global Research and Insight Director – Accenture Song Sustainability Studio

Paola Perini

Thought Leadership Research Senior Principal – Accenture Research

Josh Elkind

Research Specialist – Accenture Research