The study by market research house Incite found that consumers are split over the definition of sustainability with 44% associating it with the environment and 44% aligning it with financial security.
A further 12% were unable to define what the term means.
Chris Wood, a principal of Incite, says the differing interpretation of sustainability has implications for brands and their communications.
“Sustainability in the media is read in different ways. In the consumer world it’s not a word that’s used everyday and isn’t very clear. It demonstrates that businesses should be playing on their robustness and strength to drive confidence in their brand.”
The study also revealed that consumers still rate value for money and customer service as the most important factors in purchase decisions and sustainability only ranks 5th out of six factors
Wood says: “I would be surprised if that ever changed. At the end of the day issues like sustainability will always be secondary to value.”
Sustainability was deemed to be most important as a consideration in purchase decisions for supermarkets. The Co-operative Group (1) and Marks & Spencer (2) unsurprisingly topped the chart while Asda, Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s all appear in the top 10 league table.
Although sustainability was found to be least important for purchasing decisions made about technology companies and online retailers, eBay (3), Google (4), Skype (6) and Amazon (8) also appear in the top 10.