Eight in 10 Australian consumers expect all businesses to do their best to support green practices, while four in 10 say they will stop buying from brands that don’t.
According to new local research conducted by strategy consultancies Nature and The Lab and based on a survey of 2,000 Australians, sustainability and environmental awareness are currently hot topics for consumers. However, the survey also demonstrated both confusion and skepticism about the sustainability claims made by businesses.
For example, 72 percent of respondents said they don’t believe some brands are as green as they claim, up from 51 percent in 2019. Additionally, 56 percent said they found sustainability claims made by organizations to be confusing, up from 34 percent in 2019.
Overall, 63 percent of respondents said they highly value green brands, and 78 percent believe major brands should set an example of environmental sustainability, up from 58 percent in 2019. More than seven in 10 (73 percent) ) expect all businesses to do their best to be environmentally friendly.
In terms of action, 39 percent of all respondents said they would stop working for the business if it was not performing consistently, and that figure rose to 47 percent among the under-30s.
The study also found that the demand for sustainable business extends to all industries. For example, 63 percent said they think about sustainability “a little or a lot” when it comes to home goods, 52 percent about clothing and 50 percent about hair and beauty products.
To a lesser but still significant degree, 42 percent said they also think about sustainability “a little or a lot” when it comes to drugs and pharmaceuticals, and 38 percent agreed that they do when considering cars and other vehicles . Other areas where sustainability is a consideration are electricity (36 per cent), telephone (30 per cent), gas (28 per cent), internet service provider (26 per cent) and water (26 per cent).
“People are becoming more demanding and confused. There is a clear responsibility on all businesses to do more for the environment, to be honest about what they are doing and to communicate this to people in a clear and transparent way,” commented Nature consultant Tabitha Kelly.
“One of the biggest changes over the past three years has been in the categories where consumers expect brands to lead. Three years ago, sustainability was limited to fast-moving consumer goods and packaging, while now we see these expectations extending to services such as electricity and gas. Now it’s important to a lot of people, and it affects how they behave and where they spend their money.”
The publication of the survey comes as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) launches a new internet audit to detect false marketing claims about the environment and sustainability. The review was prompted by increased consumer interest in purchasing more sustainable products and services.
Nature partner and Melbourne managing director Justin Connolly said businesses needed to know how to communicate sustainability to consumers in the right way.
“Companies need to clearly link their sustainability message to their brand to have a positive impact on consumers. “Brands that are not yet known for sustainability can still make an impact by using their packaging to communicate their sustainability claims and integrate this into their existing brand,” he advised.
“Consistent investment in sustainability messaging over a longer period of time pays dividends in terms of brand perception as a sustainability leader. And it is important to note that communications in the field of sustainable development can be carried out optimistically, but the message must be future-oriented, believable and positive.”
Lab co-founder Paul Labagnaro saw the research as a sign that people are becoming more eager for brands to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability.
“Even less sensitive service brands are being called into action as people become more aware of how all businesses can contribute to a more sustainable future,” he said.
“When a brand shows clear action towards a more sustainable future, it helps reduce the environmental ‘cost’ to people and increases its value, making more people choose it over others,” Melbourne Lab’s head of behavioral science Chris O’Keefe added. “This is becoming increasingly necessary to support consumer spending amid a rising cost of living.”
The Nature and The Lab study was conducted in late June 2022 and involved 2,299 people across Australia.
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