Consumers don’t want to choose between sustainability and convenience

New research highlights how marketers have a long way to go when it comes to changing consumers’ purchasing habits.

Brands from all sectors and price-points are vying for the best eco-credentials. Whether it’s Coca-Cola or KFC, Louis Vuitton or Waitrose, every brand is trying to prove to consumers that their brand is sustainable and taking the environment seriously.

When done authentically this is obviously great news. The climate crisis is well and truly upon us and brands have a huge role to play when it comes to mitigating damage. But it seems that they are missing a crucial step.

While marketers are trying to convey how sustainable their brands are, they are perhaps overestimating its importance to consumers that still see convenience and price as more important at the all-important buying stage.

It is clear that consumers care about the climate, but they are not willing to sacrifice in other areas to buy sustainably. According to new research from Getty Images, which surveyed 10,000 people globally, 81% see themselves as eco-friendly but just 50% say they only buy products from brands that try to be eco-friendly.

It gets worse. The research also found that while 92% of respondents believe the way we treat our planet now will have a large impact on the future, 48% also say that although they know they should care more about the environment through their purchasing habits, convenience takes priority.

It also found 84% of UK consumers say that being environmentally friendly is important to them, yet 68% cannot name a single environmentally friendly brand.

Only those who identify as being “passionate about sustainability” are willing to pay more for products or services from companies that are more environmentally friendly. And only up to 15% more at that, according to Getty Images.

Marketers are facing two issues. Firstly, creating products at a price point consumers are used to and are also sustainable, and secondly getting outside the bubble of eco warriors to portray their brand as being environmentally friendly.

There is a disconnect that exists for the majority of consumers between the convenience they want and their expectations around sustainability. Moreover, it appears that customers aren’t going to go out of their way to buy eco-friendly brands, which means marketers need to do more in order to differentiate.

This should not put marketers off. In fact it should spur them on. Marketers have a key role to play not just in pushing forward their brands but also the purchasing habits of consumers. Take Iceland’s partnership with Greenpeace, it not only helped the brand be seen as more environmentally friendly but helped raise awareness of the issue of palm oil.

BirdsEye’s UK general manager Steve Challouma warns that marketers need to look “more holistically” at social issues that are relevant to their brand. Birds Eye tackles obesity, plastic pollution and climate change, seeing them as intersecting issues.

He sees a business case in them all.

He explains:“It is important not just from attracting that audience to your brand but also from a employer brand and attracting talent perspective. It’s also an increasingly important factor for investors in the businesses – it can affect the attractiveness of your business as an investment through measures such as the Dow Jones Sustainable Index, which gives it weight at board level.”

It is clear that sustainability is key for brands in terms of the products they develop, the talent they attract and the perception of investors.

However, this new research shows that marketers clearly have a long way to go when it comes to convincing the average consumer to opt for sustainability over convenience. The fact is, they should not have to.