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Mark Davis

How Do Consumers’ Attitudes Toward Sustainability Impact Retail Purchases?

And why should businesses care?

Nov 25, 2022 11:22:28 AM


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Do you consider sustainability when making a retail purchase? Whether it be via a social media campaign, magazine ad, or TV commercial, brands are pushing their sustainability messaging to win over consumers with like-minded values. Consumers are aware of the offenders in the sustainability crusade: dangerous plastics, excessive production leading to a larger carbon footprint, packaging that cannot be disposed of in a sustainable way. According to a recent survey conducted by eMarketer/Inside Intelligence, consumers consider sustainability as a factor when making a purchase, but it still gets outranked by other practical concerns such as price, convenience, and practicality. So, is it the brand or the consumer who should place greater emphasis on sustainability as a deciding factor when making a purchase? Both need to do more to make sustainability less of a theoretical factor and more of a practical concern.



Sustainability Has Some Influence, Right?

The findings of the survey showed that sustainability does have some influence in consumer’s purchasing decisions: 24% of respondents stated that they would rather buy products that were free of harmful or synthetic materials, while 19% would rather purchase products with minimal packaging for shipping. Consumers are prioritizing sustainable options; they are just not willing to pay a premium for eco-friendly alternatives. With the global economic downturn currently squeezing incomes, who can blame them.


The age-old notion of “added value” seems to affect sustainable shopping decisions. When consumers can see tangible results (i.e., packaging is reduced, or a product can be fully recycled/ is made from recycled materials), consumers are more likely to see the value that sustainability can bring in real terms. The survey also found that whilst younger consumers may be more conscious of sustainability purchasing trends, they do not have the buying power to translate this awareness into real purchases. There is a shift of responsibility from the consumer to the producer in terms of who needs to act upon sustainability because the consumer cannot always financially afford to bear the responsibility.


What Can Brands Do to Improve?

Messaging is a key component of making sure consumers understand they’re getting “added value.” The survey found that retailers are not shying away from sustainability messaging but are combining it with the “value” messaging that drives consumers to make a purchase. Greenwashing is a huge concern, and consumers know that greenwashing occurs when they want an eco-friendly product but don’t want to pay a premium for it. Brands need to be transparent about their sustainability claims, helping to build trust with their consumers so that consumers know their investment in the products is not wasted. Consumers want to see the messaging brands use around sustainability, so making their position clear is key to try and put sustainability and value at the top of consumer’s purchasing agenda.


Brands also need to use messaging to educate their consumers. The choices they make matter. If consumers make the switch to more sustainable purchasing trends, and the brand’s own sustainability commitments add up, it is possible to make a difference to the broader environmental concerns. The aggregated impact of one person is enough to make a difference on a larger scale, and it’s up to brands to help consumers see the bigger picture. And, if trust is an issue, brands need to seek independent validation to improve the credibility of their messaging. Consumers are more likely to trust the findings of an independent third party, so brands can use this to improve or strengthen their messaging.    


Keypoint Intelligence Opinion

In the current economic and geopolitical atmosphere, it’s hard for consumers to focus on sustainability in real terms when their finances are being stretched to the limit. Brands need to do more to promote the benefits of sustainability and value to make sure that consumers do view sustainability as more than a “nice to have.” Consumers need to understand that their individual purchasing actions matter, and that sustainability is just as important as factors such as convenience and practicality. Brands cannot continue to pull the wool over consumer’s eyes in terms of their sustainability messaging, and they need to help consumers make the choice of sustainability worthwhile when purchasing their products.


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