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Marketing Brand Purpose Brand Strategy

How can marketers turn good intentions into green buying behavior?

By John Whittaker | Head of marketing



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December 9, 2022 | 8 min read

The challenge for sustainable brands is getting consumers to put their money where their mouth is, says John Whittaker of market research agency Savanta.

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Consumers often associate sustainable products with being more expensive / KINN Living via Unsplash

As the impacts of climate change grow more extreme, we all know the imperative for sustainable behaviors to be adopted across society, particularly when it comes to consumer choices.

Yet all too often we find ourselves making purchase decisions based on price, familiarity, or ease, instead of any sustainable considerations. For brands ready to operate in the green economy, this poses a serious marketing challenge. For the sake of the planet, it's one that can’t go unanswered.

In our latest study, we assessed the complex attitudes of more than 12,000 consumers across the UK, US, and Canada, examining the actions they take towards sustainable lifestyle choices. Our aim is to help marketers understand where different audience segments stand on the road to going green, from the most responsive to the most resistant to change.

Game-changing, sustainable solutions may not come quickly, while other priorities also sit high up the agenda, but by revealing this desire for change, our research poses three clear calls to action for brands to carve a path through the sustainability jungle.

Consumers feel priced-out of sustainable choices

Producing products with a lower environmental impact tends to cost more as materials and processes are much bigger considerations. Consequently, green products have become synonymous with premium prices.

Sustainable products and services need to be clear on their place in the ‘big picture'

Even with the advent of a mass market for sustainable goods and services, consumers will still want to prioritize (at least initially) based on their lifestyle and tastes. However, even if their intentions are good, our data suggests many consumers lack the knowledge to weigh up exactly where they should be changing their behavior.

Change has already begun; don’t run the risk of being behind the curve

Despite barriers around cost and knowledge, a buzz around sustainability is growing. Close to two thirds have taken action to better inform themselves about or contribute to sustainable causes, be that signing a petition, sharing information on social media, or donating to a relevant charity.

Cost-of-living crisis

From a UK perspective, brands looking to focus on their sustainability credentials may have to rethink their approach. Our study revealed that the cost-of-living crisis is impacting consumers’ ability and desire to buy sustainably, due to the perceived premium on buying ‘greener’ products.

For many consumers there's, a simple belief that they can’t afford to buy more sustainable products and services. There is a need for more evidence that sustainable purchases are worth the additional investment to convince consumer buy-in, and that holds across all socio-economic demographics. Findings show that:

  • More than half of all consumers see the rising cost-of-living as one of the three biggest issues currently facing the UK, with only one in five stating climate change impacts their purchasing decisions.

  • Across groceries, lifestyle, energy supply, travel and transport, and money management, sustainability was not cited as the most important purchase driver.

  • Value for money is the factor most likely to be rated as important when buying non-food products.

  • Only a third of consumers say buying from a brand that is ethical or has a positive impact is important.

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Re-evaluating purchasing decisions

What is clear is that rising inflation is forcing UK shoppers to re-evaluate their purchases, and the perceived premium on buying sustainable goods and services means they’re less likely to be picked up from the shelf.

The ‘sweet spot’ for consumers and brands needs to be where sustainability and low prices meet. For example, in areas such as domestic energy-efficiency. As such, the brands that show they are actively being more sustainable whilst also keeping costs down are likely to do very well in the coming months.

By segmenting consumers into seven groups, based around the well-publicized ‘say-do’ gap and plotting consumers’ intentions to behave more sustainably against the real-world steps they have taken to-date, we aim to helps brands overcome the many roadblocks to a sustainable future.

Download the full report, 'Insight to power a greener economy', here.

Marketing Brand Purpose Brand Strategy

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Savanta offer best in class B2B & B2C Market Research services across the UK, US & internationally. We can help your Company Make Better Decisions, learn How.

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