Whenever I talk with a client about sustainability, a question arises “Does sustainability pay?”. The answer is with no doubt YES! There are researches available online showing that when customers are offered a choice, they do prefer eco-friendly products and “punish” not so sustainable brands asking a much lower price. Obviously, what companies willing to invest in sustainability must understand is that a sustainable strategy goes hand in hand with a communication strategy – otherwise consumers will not perceive the added value during the purchasing process.
A recent survey conducted by the Uk consumer organisation “Which?” showed that between 74% and 96% of the people surveyed were unaware of the big names behind 10 popular ethical brands. And, once they found out, of those whose opinion changed, more had a negative reaction than a positive one. “Consumers are being misled,” said one respondent while another commented: “I feel conned.” One reason behind this negative reaction is that interviewed were worried about large companies being more concerned with profits than ethics.
What manufacturers must really understand is that consumers are willing to buy sustainable products but at the same time are going to punish any non-ethical behaviour by asking for a very reduced price. The future of retail and of sustainability lies in the ability of producers to understand this and to act accordingly.