It’s not news that sustainability is on the agenda, but a recent influx of statistics triggered by a new Unilever report has changed the conversation. Rather than the desire to be more sustainable being immediately handcuffed by the fear of cost implications, we now have hard evidence that sustainability pays, and that having a purpose seated in sustainability will help you turn a healthy profit.
The report in question reveals numerous things, including that one third of consumers choose brands based on their social and environmental purpose and impact. 20,000 adults were surveyed over 5 markets, and one in five of them claimed that if sustainability credentials and intentions were made clearer on packaging, they would be more inclined to buy. So what does this mean fiscally? According to this report, a potential £817bn is waiting to be unlocked. Unilever can simply look at its own books if it still needs convincing: in 2015, Unilever’s ‘sustainable living’ brands (which include Dove & Ben & Jerry’s) drove around 50% of the company’s global growth, and collectively they are currently growing 30% faster than its hundreds of other brands.
Unilever isn’t the only one to highlight the importance of consumer buying power with regards to sustainability. If companies fear that taking sustainability measures along their supply chain will impact the final product cost and lead to customers going for cheaper options, they can think again. Environmental Leader conducted a study on sustainable wine shopping in the US. It found that on average, respondents were prepared to pay a $7 premium on wines produced through ‘sustainable’ practices.
To compound this, in Unilever’s study, 53% of UK respondents and 78% of US respondents say they feel better when buying from brand with a positive social and environmental impact. Even more convincing is the 88% of respondents in India and 85% in Brazil saying the same thing. Marketing Week has suggested that buyers in these emerging economies see the impact of unsustainable practices more readily, so feel more passionately. But whatever the reason, increased final product price might not be the barrier some think: consumers desire a more sustainable brand, and are willing to pay for it.
The scores are in and the answer is staring us blindly in the face: sustainability pays, and brand purpose and profit go hand in hand. But you have to give what you take: companies must sincerely invest in the future of the planet as well as in their bottom line. If this wealth of evidence is anything to go by, the costs will be well worth it: consumers will feel more fulfilment when they shop, companies will turn a healthy profit, and most importantly, sustainable practices will gain the whole boardroom’s vote and brands can truly be a force for good.