Greater awareness about sustainability and environmental damage as also the manner of production and fair trade, has led to the rise of consumers who prefer to buy sustainable products. Many recent studies have confirmed this trend, that more and more people (1/3rd i.e. 33% of consumers globally) are opting for brands which they think are doing good for the environment or society.
What is a sustainable brand
The study’s finding suggests that, given a chance, people are inherently interested in making beneficial choices for the environment. There are sustainable products which are placed on the same shelf as non-sustainable ones. How do you make the choice? Firstly what is meant by a ‘sustainable brand’?
A sustainable brand is one which has included sustainability in its marketing as well as products and contributed to society by following practices which are good for the environment and society. A product that declares itself as sustainable has to reduce environmental impact, use ingredients which are sustainable sourced, and which focus on improving the health, nutrition, and wellbeing of the consumer. These ecofriendly brands cut waste and reduce their energy use, as well as natural resources and raw materials.
Findings of the study
The study, conducted by Unilever had 20,000 adult participants belonging to five countries. They were asked whether sustainability concerns affected their decision making while buying products. Their answers were then mapped against real purchase/buying decisions which revealed an accurate picture of what people are preferring to buy.
The study confirmed that people were buying products and brands which were environmentally and socially responsible. Consumers are now reading product information in marketing and packaging carefully, and tend to look for sustainable products. According to the study, a whopping 966 billion Euro opportunity is there for brands which make their sustainability /environmental credentials clear.
Out of Unilever’s hundreds of brands, those which had included sustainability were the ones which delivered almost half of the company’s global growth.
Sustainability demand is more in emerging economies
Surprisingly, the trend for sustainable purchasing is more among consumers belonging to emerging economies, rather than developed markets. In the UK, the percentage of people who said they felt better when they bought products which include sustainability was 58%, and in US this percentage was 78%. Whereas, the number rose to 88% for India and 85% for Turkey and Brazil.
The study identified two probable causes for the greater demand for sustainable products in countries like India, Turkey and Brazil. One reason could be that consumers in these countries have seen firsthand how the environment suffers due to unsustainable businesses, leading to all kinds of pollution, energy and water shortage, poverty, and decreasing air quality.
The second reason could be social norms. The power or peer and family pressure cannot be ignored. People might be influenced by their friends and family to buy sustainable products. Children in these countries, especially in urban areas are extremely eco conscious and these children can also influence their parent’s purchasing decisions.
Whatever the reasons may be, companies can no longer ignore the demand for sustainable products. Consumers are increasingly aware of their power in influencing the market, and if companies want to stay relevant, they have to shift their focus from affordability and performance to incorporating sustainable practices. Apart from focusing on just bottom lines, brands have to gain the trust of their consumers, by showing that they are concerned about the future of the planet.
Brands are embracing positive strategies
Leading brands have now started to embrace planet friendly practices due to consumer demand. They are changing their methods of production and infrastructure including factories, supply chains and factories to impact the environment in positive ways. Innovative new methods and technologies are being used to reduce the use of natural resources, such as water, reduce wastage and introduce in-house recycling of materials, and sustainable sourcing of raw material. As consumers are more aware of fair trade practices, brands, which pay higher wages to their workers and farmers, are also being favored.
The demand for sustainable products and brands worldwide has led to manufacturers including sustainability as a deliberate strategy to gain more profit from consumers who are increasingly choosing sustainability as a factor for purchasing a product.