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The findings from our ‘state of the market report 2022: The role sustainability has in consumer decisions’, certainly got our team talking. What many found surprising was just how big the desire amongst consumers seemed to be, to live more sustainably.

Sure, we’re all consumers and no doubt, just as the stats suggest, a large proportion of us are all thinking and feeling the same way. Yet, it’s just not something we really talk about and hence why our report was such a hot topic of discussion in the office.

But this is surely a good thing. People talking, being surprised by statistics, realising that so many consumers want to be part of the change. The change to living a more sustainable life, in a more sustainable and ethical world.

The upward trend in conscious consumerism and sustainability has been growing year on year and is arguably no longer a trend but an embedded, instinctive consideration, as people go about their daily lives.

Our report referenced research by Aviva that found two thirds, 68%, of respondents said they were more likely to pick brands with sustainable or climate-aware credentials. And research done by Deloitte, found 34% of consumers choose brands that have environmentally sustainable practices / values and 30% choose brands that operate ethically.

These are pretty big percentages showing that shoppers want and DO talk with their wallets in support of sustainable living. And whilst our report concluded that the onus wasn’t only on brands to make a difference, getting the ball rolling, was. And so, as brands work to fill this role, they’re looking to understand what living sustainably really means to customers and how they can help in achieving these green-living goals.

 

Actions speak louder than words.

For true change to take place it has to be consistent, done repeatedly, and over the long term. And this lends itself well to the simple, conscious actions that make up the top 3 things consumers said they currently do to live more sustainability.

  1. Cutting down on single-use plastics. (61%)
  2. Thinking seasonal when it came to grocery choices. (49%)
  3. Buying locally. (45%)

All easy to do, everyday actions, that tangibly contribute to living sustainably and that, over time, become habit, instinctive, and part of our daily routine.

Another nod to the tangibility of small actions making a difference and allowing consumers to feel engaged and ‘doing their bit’, is 34% of consumers who specifically chose to buy from sustainable and ethical brands did so because of; waste reduction (44%), sustainable packaging (43%) and reducing carbon footprint (43%).

 

The role of brands and retailers.

So, if this is what sustainability means to customers, then how does this translate for brands and retailers?

Positive Messaging.

Behavioural science tells us that we’re more likely to continue doing something if we feel positive about it. So, rather than using messaging designed to create guilt to incite action, positive messaging about the direct impact a consumer’s actions have, either at an individual level or as a collective, is far more powerful in driving change.

And it’s not grand gestures or lofty statements, it’s referencing the little things, small adjustments, that consumers can and are making in their daily lives that create long term changes in behaviour. Consumers ultimately want to feel they are actively choosing sustainability – a conscious choice – rather than one made out of guilt.

Integrated & effortless.

More choice from brands and retailers came out as one of the key barriers to consumers being able to do more when it came to living sustainably. One way to do this is, of course, to create a new range of sustainable products to market and sell. However, perhaps a more longer term approach is to integrate sustainability into existing products. From things like the packaging, the ingredients, the sourcing, to the environmental impacts as part of the supply chain.

Incorporating these aspects into existing products means sustainability becomes less about a separate, contrived purchase, and more about it being a default, instinctive one.

The bigger picture.

As consumers are motivated to do more if they understand the positive impact their actions have, then this also extends to actively choosing to buy from brands who are also playing their part at a more corporate level. Consumers want to understand not just information about the products they buy but also about the brands they’re buying from.

And brands don’t need to be perfect. This is as much about the journey as it is the end game. Showing how actions are contributing to changes in the short term, as well as, longer term goals, are important to demonstrating commitment. Things such as ethical production practices, fair wages, as well as, carbon neutral goals, are all aspects of a business’s strategy that allow consumers to make indirect impacts to sustainability through brand choice.

What we know today, as we look to the future, is that change is happening. No longer a trend, living sustainability is becoming part of our ‘everyday’. For consumers, yes, it’s about global transformation but what creates real traction is being able to take direct and personal actions that contribute; from recycling, buying local to choosing brands whose businesses also align to operating more sustainably.

To find out how our nationwide community of over 50,000 Shepherds can help you carry out a whole range of asset checks and help you reduce your carbon footprint in the process, then get in touch. We‘d love to hear from you.

 

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