Consumer familiarity with the term “sustainability” is up almost 1.5 times from 2008, yet most consumers remain unsure which products and companies support sustainability goals.
Familiarity with the term “sustainability” has grown steadily in recent years, but consumer confidence in identifying sustainable products and companies lags behind in finding proper ways to communicate their sustainability efforts.
This gap represents a significant opportunity for companies to standout from the crowd and clearly communicate their specific sustainable practices and product attributes.
Getting Up Close and Personal with Sustainability
If younger consumers are an indicator of future trends, sustainable purchasing will continue to rise as their buying power increases. As the opportunity gap closes, sustainable purchasing will also increase. Companies can help consumers live in accordance with their values by taking a loud and clear stand in this arena.
The strategy needed to close the gap has evolved. Sustainable products no longer combat inferior quality expectations so no need to spend energy convincing consumers of your merit. Quality and sustainability are mutually reinforcing attributes in the minds of consumers with both noting a product crafted with greater care and attention taken by your company. However, focus is essential. Sustainability is a broad and nuanced multidimensional construct, and consumers expect activation in areas that are most relevant for your brand, categories, and company.
Consumer's Trust in Sustainability Claims
The majority of consumers are willing to trust companies’ claims about sustainability efforts, though younger generations express more cynicism. Consumers do not expect perfection, as they recognize that like their own sustainability journeys, companies have goals and are at different points toward achieving them. Consumers do require transparency, however. Be honest and open about all your practices, even the ones that don’t currently reflect your ambitions. Admitting imperfections along with your plans for achieving goals only builds authenticity and trust.
Here's 5 Ways to Close the Sustainability Gap
Utilize your packaging: Consumers use packaging as a shortcut to judge not only your product’s sustainability, but your company’s sustainability too. It’s important to make sure your packaging is effectively communicating your sustainability efforts.
Determine your impacts: Determine where you can have the biggest impacts, environmentally or socially. Focus your efforts there but take actions in adjacent arenas to demonstrate your understanding of sustainability as a web of interconnected issues.
Conduct an audit: Audit your portfolio of brands, products, and company practices for consistent compliance with your sustainability commitments. Misalignments will undermine the good work you are doing.
Don't shy away: Embrace your role as a significant actor in the sustainability arena which will vary depending on the scale of your business. Bigger players will need to be prepared to shoulder bigger commitments and create partnerships with government, NGOs, and nonprofits to fulfill the leadership that consumers expect of you.
Be loud and proud: Be loud and proud of your sustainability practices by sharing information on pack, at shelf, through traditional and social media, and beyond. Consumers generally are willing to trust companies when they communicate about sustainable actions, but many will seek to verify such claims themselves. Remember, you don’t have to be perfect, intentionality is what consumers value most.