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A new international study by Unilever has revealed that a third of consumers choose to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good.

The study asked 20,000 adults from five countries how their sustainability concerns impact their choices in-store and at home. Crucially, it then mapped their claims against real purchase decisions, giving a more accurate picture than ever of what people are actually buying, and why.

The study revealed that 33 per cent of consumers choose to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good and demonstrates the opportunity available for companies that get it right.

More than one in five (21 per cent) of those surveyed said they would actively choose brands if they made their sustainability credentials clearer on their packaging and in their marketing.

The value of integrating sustainability into a brand’s purpose and products can be seen in Unilever’s own results, according to Unilever. Of its brands, those with integrated sustainability (such as Dove, Hellmann’s and Ben & Jerry’s) delivered nearly half the company’s global growth in 2015. Collectively, the company said these brands are growing 30 per cent faster than the rest of Unilever’s business.

Unilever’s chief marketing and communications officer Keith Weed said the research confirms that sustainability isn’t a nice-to-have for businesses and is instead an imperative.

“To succeed globally, and especially in emerging economies across Asia, Africa and Latin America, brands should go beyond traditional focus areas like product performance and affordability,” he said.

“Instead, they must act quickly to prove their social and environmental credentials and show consumers they can be trusted with the future of the planet and communities, as well as their own bottom lines.”

The emergence of purchasing based on sustainability credentials is further supported by the From Marketing to Mattering study by Accenture and Havas Media Group. This study found that consumers in emerging economies are more engaged on sustainability and expect companies’ good purpose efforts to benefit them directly.

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