Business must respond to sustainability – top consumer trends released

17 November 2015

Kiwis are more interested than ever in choosing the sustainable option when purchasing goods or services and while mainstream businesses are starting to respond to demand, new research from Colmar Brunton says there’s more to be done

Colmar Brunton’s 2015 Better Futures Report focuses on consumer behaviour towards socially, environmentally and economically responsible brands. Data gathered annually over the past seven years shows very clear and compelling trends are emerging.

Top trends amongst consumers:

  • Purchasing of Fairtrade, ethical, socially responsible and environmentally friendly products is on the rise.
  • Gen Y are the consumers most motivated by a sustainable value proposition and an increasing number (65 per cent) are willing to spend a little more for the best organic, sustainable and ethically produced products and brands available.
  • Gen Y consumers over the age of 18 will make up a quarter of the market by 2018.
  • Much of the innovation in sustainability is coming from small to medium enterprises.

CEO Jacqueline Farman says there is no question that sustainable behaviours are now an everyday part of consumers’ lives, and that’s a cue more and more businesses are picking up on and the rest cannot afford to ignore.

Leading sustainable behaviours consumers undertake at least some of the time include buying eco-friendly cleaning products (84 per cent), growing their own fruit and vegetables (77 per cent) and considering green energy sources for their home (56 per cent).

Sustainable Business Network (SBN) CEO Rachel Brown says the Colmar Brunton research reflects trends that her organisation sees growing stronger in the market, with an increasing connection between mainstream brands and sustainability.

“Our greatest membership growth is from very innovative small and medium sized enterprises; who are certainly leading the charge in sustainability in NZ,” Rachel says.

“We have a record 75 finalists across 10 categories in our November NZI Sustainable Business Awards and many of them are mainstream companies like Tauranga based Trevelyan’s Pack and Cool, Waterfront Auckland or Laminex that have embraced sustainability in recent years. By far the greatest contribution is from small and medium businesses with finalists like Eat My Lunch, Akau, Kaibosh, Optifleet or Wishbone Design Studio.”

To be a finalist in the awards businesses must be able to demonstrate both innovation and impact in sustainability.

Rachel says among larger mainstream companies, Air New Zealand has recently taken a very public lead with its pick up on the business case for sustainability and recent launch of its new sustainability framework. The knock on effect of this announcement has been terrific and we very much look forward to supporting them with the rather massive challenge they have taken on.

Jacqueline says the implications of the Better Futures research suggest we will see more companies follow the lead of Air New Zealand and the SBN Awards finalists.

“It’s no coincidence that Air New Zealand also topped our Corporate Reputation Index this year and is New Zealand’s top service brand in our Most Loved Brands survey. With the launch of its new sustainability framework it will only enhance its reputation and engagement with today’s consumers and those of the future.”

“Other corporates who want to build their reputation with consumers would do well to follow Air New Zealand’s example. They can’t afford not to if they want to engage consumers, boost their reputations and maximise sales and business opportunities.”

But Ms Farman says many businesses that have embraced sustainability are struggling to clearly communicate their sustainability story.

The Better Futures survey found that 71 per cent of consumers can’t name any brand or organisation as a leader in sustainability and 81 per cent of those surveyed agreed that the way businesses talk about their social and environmental commitment is confusing and hard to understand – up from 74 per cent last year.