Sustainability and Unblocktober: 2021 Search Trends


As Unblocktober draws to a close – and with the recent announcement from Boris on a net zero strategy for the UK – we wanted to dive into what everyone’s been searching for surrounding these topics over the past year. Our Senior SEO Account Executive Carolina is here to give you all our findings. 

The Met Office predicts that the UK will see warmer and wetter winters, hotter and drier summers and more frequent and intense weather extremes as a result of climate change. Looking back at the floods this summer and the wildfires a couple of years ago demonstrates how we’re already living through momentous climatic change. The WWF and 3Keel report that the UK must reduce its global footprint by three quarters by 2030 to meet planetary limits. We can do this by being more sustainable. But what does sustainability mean?   

Here is the UN’s definition of sustainability:

“Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” 

It’s our responsibility at each level – global, national, business/organisational and individual – to reduce our detrimental impact on the earth. At Passion we’re working towards becoming a more sustainable business, and participating in these important conversations is critical to success.

A brilliant place to start is by seeing what everyone else is talking about when it comes to sustainability and Unblocktober, allowing us to commence our journey towards becoming ‘green individuals’. I have taken a look at what this year’s main trends have been surrounding Unblocktober and sustainability and I’m excited to share them with you – read on for the juicy details.

2021 Sustainability Searches in the UK

1. Back to basics

Looking into the search trends around sustainability, there has been a high volume of queries like ‘why sustainability is important’ – 1,000 searches this month to be precise. There has also been a 600% increase this year in searches for the ‘three pillars of sustainability’. We can infer that this year the UK has had a desire to take a step back and find out exactly what it is to be sustainable. Without understanding what sustainability means, how can we embody it?

2. Not business as usual 

Another rising star of the UK’s 2021 sustainability search trends is ‘supply chain sustainability’, with a whopping 550% increase in searches from the last year. According to McKinsey & Company, the supply chain accounts for more than 90% of most consumer goods companies’ environmental impact, so it’s no wonder that businesses are searching for how they can minimise the effects of their supply chains on the environment. 
‘Sustainability for business’ is also a highly searched term, this month alone reaching 2,400 searches. The Guardian reports that just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions. We’re glad to see these high search volumes and are hopeful that this could lead to a real effort from businesses to address their harmful actions towards the environment.

3. The role of big tech

The search term ‘Amazon sustainability’ has increased in volume by 70% since last year. This could reflect the growing pressure on huge corporations such as Amazon to address their environmental impact. With the scandal reported back in June of Amazon destroying millions of unsold stock in its UK warehouses per year, the company appears to be under higher scrutiny than in previous years regarding sustainability. And that’s not all – last month The Guardian posted a damning report that detailed how although big tech is coming out with bold statements on their actions against global warming, their actual engagement is nonexistent. We sincerely hope this report and continued pressure from the world of search – as search is a visible representation of consumer concerns – pushes these companies to turn rhetoric into action.  

2021 Water Pollution and Unblocktober Searches in the UK

Being sustainable involves a whole host of changes, one being responsibly managing our water sources. We decided to dip our toes into this topic… so water you waiting for? Read on for more.
I was quite surprised by the results for search volume in October 2021 for the term ‘unblocktober’, as the same time last year produced 250 more search queries. You’d expect searches for Unblocktober to increase in the months leading up to and following October, which the graph illustrates – however, the interesting point is the October annual disparity. It could possibly come down to the fact that 2021 being such a standout year for sustainability discussions means that Unblocktober has been muffled by more ‘popular’ topics.

Now that we’ve spent some time considering the search trends for Unblocktober, let’s get into more general topics such as water pollution. This does have a higher search volume of 4,400 queries this month, but when we compare it with searches for ‘sustainability’ it pales in comparison.

What’s more interesting is that the term ‘sustainability in clothing’ received the exact same search volume as the broader term ‘water pollution’. It’s understandable, then, to be concerned that the topic of water pollution isn’t as important to the UK population as having sustainable fashion. However, when searchers gain information on the negative impact of fashion on the environment they will undoubtedly be informed of fashion’s effect on water pollution: 20% of industrial water pollution is attributed to the fashion industry.

True, they may not be informed about the other 80% of factors contributing to water pollution, but the scale of the climate emergency and how many factors contribute to the total problem can be overwhelming to the average person. We can also infer that clothing being something you encounter everyday (compared to water pollution being a more abstract concept) explains the higher search volume. After all, it’s easier to tackle a familiar problem than one more distant.

Plogging Your Way to a Greener Planet

What is plogging?

Big problems require creative solutions and I’ve been fascinated to uncover the latest effort to clean up our environment – plogging. Plogging involves jogging around an area whilst picking up litter. We don’t know who came up with the idea (or how they did it), but we love this creative approach to making our environment greener.

Looking through search trends, this month the term delivered a volume of 720 searches and, from the graph below, its peak this year has been in April with 1,000 searches. This could be because 22 April was Earth Day, meaning people were consciously looking for standout ways to help the environment.

So forget your Sunday morning jog – let’s make it a Sunday morning plog! You’re still getting that all important exercise with the added benefit of improving our environment. What’s not to love?

We hope you enjoyed reading about these environmental search trends. Here at Passion we are always interested in what people are searching for online and it’s certainly given us some food for thought on ways we can begin our journey towards sustainability, both as a business and as individuals. If you’d like some expert advice on how your business can get involved in digital sustainability conversations, please get in touch!