Consumers are becoming more sophisticated in their ability to discern between a true commitment to sustainability and action taken just for show. And they’re not afraid to call out that authenticity—or lack of it—on social media, in conversations with friends or in any other channel. This has made some brands hesitant to communicate their sustainability work, afraid of the brutal consumer backlash for well-intentioned efforts. Others are still sustainability skeptics.
In working with clients at Nielsen, I often hear, “Yes, consumers say they want sustainability, but will this actually boost my bottom line?” There is a wealth of evidence indicating it will. In fact, when sustainability initiatives are integrated thoughtfully into the strategic plan, they can do everything from streamline the supply chain to unlock a new level of consumer love and loyalty.
In Nielsen's recent report, What’s Sustainability Got To Do With It?, we took a look at three product categories—chocolate, coffee and bath products—and found that sustainability boosted sales and units sold across the board.
The word “sustainability” has increasingly become a catch-all term that, depending on the context, can encompass everything from environmental conservation to employee relations, and much more. Thus, for any company, it can seem daunting to incorporate all of these factors into an overall business strategy and figure out how it fits into a consumer marketing approach.
Investing in sustainability is undoubtedly an individual journey for brands that can be impacted by industry, geography, product portfolio, community commitments and other factors. We’ve seen success when companies take a tailored approach consisting of multi-stakeholder engagement, cross-functional accountability and transparency along the way. For many brands, this approach will enable consumers to take note at the shelf—and in turn reward you along their path to purchase.
Image credit: Joshua Rawson-Harris via Unsplash
Julia Wilson is Vice President, Global Responsibility and Sustainability at Nielsen, where she is responsible for its global environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy, ongoing stakeholder engagement, and external reporting. She was a recipient of City & State NY’s “Responsible 100” for 2017.