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    Heightened Focus on Sustainable Marketing

    Survey: One universal score will impact purchase decisions, drive sales

    If you build it, they will come: That’s the message behind a new research study by Ryan Partnership Chicago and Mambo Sprouts Marketing, which shows health and eco-consumers want one universal green score to help them make sustainable product buying decisions.

    New survey findings published in the “One Green Score for One Earth” sustainability research white paper suggest shoppers would increase sustainable product spending if only they could determine which products were truly green and which had been simply green-washed.

    “We know that consumer commitment to earth-friendly products is increasing,” said Christine Nardi Diette, president of Ryan Partnership Chicago. “But all of the green messaging is creating more confusion than confidence. Consumers are challenging manufacturers and retailers to be clear about their commitment to sustainability.”

    According to the study, health and eco-conscious consumers say that a universal product sustainability score would influence their brand purchase decisions. Research findings indicate just how strong the demand is for such a score and how consumers would prefer the rating system to work:

    - Rate It. Among shoppers, the vast majority (at least eight in 10) want a product sustainability score. Even the majority (55 percent) of those who are not committed to buying sustainably would welcome such a score.
    - By the Numbers. Three in four consumers said a numerical score would be most useful in communicating sustainability. Symbols and text were less popular, favored by just over 25 percent.
    - It’s Complicated. While a single score would seem simple and clear, shoppers understand that sustainability is complex and are open to the idea of multiple scores to improve the quality of communication.
    - Keep it Independent. At least three in four consumers looked for an independent organization or group of experts across different areas of sustainability (without a profit motive) to create the score.
    - Find It. More than half of shoppers prefer that sustainability information be displayed within the store: packaging, labels and signage.

    The study also found that consumers are more discerning about what makes a product sustainable. “While consumers remain focused on a product’s environmental impact (e.g. energy conservation and carbon footprint), increasingly social, eco-economy and other facets of corporate responsibility are being considered including Fair Trade, cruelty-free and locally sourced,” said Matthew Saline, founder and CEO of Mambo Sprouts Marketing.

    The study further examined what the score should look like and how it could be best communicated to consumers, the challenges for retailers and marketers, and a creative solution.

    These results were released as part of a research white paper titled “One Green Score for One Earth,” the first in a series on sustainability that reveals the results of a quantitative consumer survey and qualitative point of view interviews among retailers and manufacturers.

    In reviewing research results, Ryan and Mambo Sprouts forecast three sustainable market trends that will reshape consumer product marketing:

    - Sustainability Wins. Shoppers will devote a larger share of their spending to products and stores that are able to convince them of their sustainability claims.
    - Truth in Marketing. Shopper sensitivity to green-washing will intensify and consumers will demand an accurate way of understanding and comparing sustainability across products, companies and retailers.
    - Eco-Accounting. Brands and retailers will increasingly focus on the triple bottom line (people, plant and profit – they key pillars that inspire sustainability) and strive to provide their customers with product sustainability information.

    “Those brands that take the lead on these trends and establish themselves as credible on the topic of sustainability will reap the benefits in terms of an increased share of wallet and shopper loyalty,” Diette said. “But implicit in the consumer conversation is the idea that sustainable products will meet standards of quality and performance, ideally at a price consumers can afford.”

    Ryan Partnership Chicago is a leading expert in promotion, shopper and digital marketing campaigns for emerging and established consumer brands.

    Based in Collingswood, N.J., Mambo Sprouts Marketing develops and executes online, retail and direct mail promotions, and market research programs targeted at health, natural and organic products consumers.

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