“Consumers around the world are saying loud and clear that a brand’s social purpose is among the factors that influence purchase decisions. This behavior is on the rise and it provides opportunities for meaningful impact in our communities, in addition to helping to grow share for brands.” Amy Fenton, global leader of public development and sustainability, Nielsen (Nielsen.com, June 17, 2014)

“It’s no longer a question if consumers care about social impact. Consumers do care and show they do through their actions. Now the focus is on determining how your brand can effectively create shared value by marrying the appropriate social cause and consumer segments.” Amy Fenton, global leader of public development and sustainability, Nielsen (Nielsen.com, June 17, 2014)


Description

Quality-focused people have become more conscious of, and discerning about, how to “consume better’’. People are selecting products and services showing greater sense and utility rather than merely accumulating objects. They embrace products that they consider to be not only personally pleasurable but that also demonstrate improved sustainability, ethics and social responsibility. Consumer awareness and interest have never been higher, and recent trends suggest that momentum is picking up. In fact, findings from a Nielsen global survey in 2014 reveal that about 55% of consumers around the globe are willing to pay more for products that are responsible and sustainable, an increase from 50% in 2012 and 45% in 2011. The propensity to buy socially responsible brands is strongest in Asia-Pacific (64%), Latin America (63%) and Middle East/Africa (63%). The numbers for North America and Europe are 42 and 40%, respectively. In terms of demographics, Millennials (age 21-34) appear to be more responsive (51%) to sustainability actions among global respondents in Nielsen’s survey. Corporate social responsibility seems of great matter since 52% of global respondents say they have purchased at least one product or service in the past six months from a socially responsible company, according to Nielsen’s study. In terms of environmental sustainability, 4 in 10 respondents in North America and Europe say they have made a sustainable purchase in the past six months.

In fact, findings from a Nielsen global survey in 2014 reveal that about 55% of consumers around the globe are willing to pay more for products that are responsible and sustainable, an increase from 50% in 2012 and 45% in 2011. The propensity to buy socially responsible brands is strongest in Asia-Pacific (64%), Latin America (63%) and Middle East/Africa (63%). The numbers for North America and Europe are 42 and 40%, respectively.

As demands from both customers and regulators have tightened, industry players are leading the charge to more environmentally aware practices with environmentally friendly initiatives aimed at reusing materials, eliminating waste, and preserving resources.

Corporate vision & mission

Today the phenomenon has shifted from the product to the corporate level. Savvier than ever and constantly pursuing authenticity, the new generation has become quite sceptical of cause marketing. More engaged, these young consumers have developed consumer activism, which is consequently forcing brands to be more careful about the stories they tell.

Seeking a practical sense of a greater purpose, consumers are now asking from brands to have a strong point of view on the company’s role in society, and a clear strategy to engage them around that vision.

People want more than just getting glossy annual CSR reports; businesses must understand that they want to actively participate with brands in the pursuit of a compelling vision for change. In addition, faced with the ultra competitive landscape, mature businesses are showing a need for profound change. To stay agile, they must cultivate a genuine relationship with consumers and demonstrate that their business is truly committed to social impact. Then, in order to get business value out of this and to measure social impact, such organizations have to deploy their brand’s purpose and rely on the participation of the customers and their communities to spread the word massively.

Marketing efforts do work

People want lives that count, resonate, and matter in human terms. While a majority of corporations provide useless, throwaway goods or show over tainted corporate identities, an increasing group of companies is striving to focus on improving peoples’ lives – and this is working. Some 52% of global respondents in Nielsen’s survey say their purchase decisions are partly dependent on the packaging – they check the labeling first before buying to ensure the brand is committed to positive social and environmental impact. Sustainable purchase considerations are most influenced by the packaging in Asia-Pacific (63%), Latin America (62%) and Middle East/Africa (62%) and to a lesser extent in Europe (36%) and North America (32%). A Nielsen’s analysis in March 2014 showed an average annual sales increase of 2% for products with sustainability claims on the packaging and a lift of 5% for products that promoted sustainability actions through marketing programs, while brands without sustainability claims or marketing showed a sales rise of only 1%. It is clear that the most successful brands are those who have proved to be the most engaged in making people’s lives better. Being socially responsible is paying off—and it’s also no longer an option for brands. It’s actually becoming the cost of entry.

A Nielsen’s analysis in March 2014 showed an average annual sales increase of 2% for products with sustainability claims on the packaging and a lift of 5% for products that promoted sustainability actions through marketing programs, while brands without sustainability claims or marketing showed a sales rise of only 1%.

At the top of Havas Media’s second annual Meaningful Brands Index, released in June 2013, feature Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Nestle, and Sony. The results are striking: brands that make life better are thriving, while brands that don’t are kind of being punished.

Featured examples

Buycott

Credit: Buycott.com

Credit: Buycott.com

Buycott app has been designed to promote the purchase of products and services that come from eco-friendly or socially responsible companies so consumers can fund causes they support and avoid funding those they disagree with. People need to scan a product with their smartphone, which will look up the product, determine what brand it belongs to, and figure out what company owns that brand. It will then cross-check the product owners against the companies and brands included in the campaigns shoppers have joined, in order to tell them if the scanned product conflicts with one of their campaign commitments.
United States of America United States, July 2014

Cumulus Green by Migros

Credit: Migros’ Facebook page

Credit: Migros’ Facebook page

Swiss retailer Migros launched the loyalty program Cumulus Green, coming from partnership between the retailer and WWF. The initiative enables customers to boldly estimate the number of sustainable products that are in their shopping cart. Purchases of products from twelve different sustainable labels such as Migros Bio, Terra Switzerland, Max Havelaar or TopTen are taken into account by the program as well as purchases made in all Migros stores, melectronics specialty markets, SportXX, do it + Garden, Micasa and their online stores and also Alnatura stores. Customers will receive every two months a recap of the financial value they gave to such sustainable labels and will be able to set personal goals to achieve.
Switzerland Switzerland, June 2014

Material Fix

Credit: Matterialfix.com

Credit: Matterialfix.com

Fashion is getting engaged, too. Material Fix jewelry is a socially responsible line that donates 10% of its sales to charities that empower girls. Items brought from the India collection provides the Freedom Firm with funds to create rescue missions and aftercare programs for girls that have been freed from child prostitution in India. In addition to the program providing counseling, education, and medical care to the girls, it helps with the prosecution of the offenders. Similarly, items brought from the Peru line provides funds to Peruvian Hearts, who works to remedy poverty and tries to achieve gender equality in Peru. The program gives private schooling to girls and tries to support them to continue on to secondary school and college. Peruvian Hearts also promotes health care and nutrition.
India India, August 2014

Sainsbury’s initiative

Credit: j-sainsbury.co.uk

Credit: j-sainsbury.co.uk

British supermarket chain Sainsbury is taking new steps to re-use and recycle by using technology to struggle against food waste. The store is the first retail outlet in the country to go off-grid as it is now sending all its food waste to an anaerobic digestion plant, which is run by waste recycling company Biffa. A 1.5km-long electricity cable has been installed linking the plant to the nearby superstore, in which food waste is turned into methane gas, so that it receives electricity directly from the plant.
United-Kingdom United Kingdom, July 2014

“No Fish No Nothing” by Kenzo

Luxury fashion brand Kenzo opened the « Nofishnonothing Digital Pop Up store » in Paris from March 21st to 27th to support the Blue Marine Foundation. The foundation has been fighting since 2010 against sea pollution, overfishing and sea life destruction. To bring its support to the cause, Kenzo created a capsule collection inspired by the aquatic theme, while the pop-up store provided a digital aquarium and several touch screens designed to tell more this unique collaboration.
France France, March 2014

Business & Marketing guidelines

1

Act as a platform between consumers and businesses for organizing and activating sustainability or social responsibility on the front end.

2

Add further depth and engagement in your marketing actions and communication campaigns by giving more meaning to the act of purchase. Harness new ethical approaches to your offer.

3

Be more value-driven: give more out of the product in terms of value alongside its mere functional features.

4

Identify who these engaged consumers are and how passionate they are about corporate social responsibility.

Summary

  • Quality-focused people have become more conscious of, and discerning about, how to “consume better’’. They embrace products that they consider to be not only personally pleasurable but that also demonstrate improved sustainability, ethics and social responsibility.
  • Findings from a recent global survey reveal that about 55% of consumers around the globe are willing to pay more for products that are responsible and sustainable, an increase from 50% in 2012 and 45% in 2011.
  • Seeking a practical sense of a greater purpose, consumers are now asking from brands to have a strong point of view on the company’s role in society, and a clear strategy to engage them around that vision.
  • The most successful brands are those who have proved to be the most engaged in making people’s lives better. Being socially responsible is paying off—and it’s also no longer an option for brands

Experts that we recommend

david-pendlington David Pendlington & Leslie Leinders
Sustainable Sourcing at Unilever UK
bertrand-swiderski Bertrand Swiderski
Sustainability Director at Carrefour Group
olivier-schulbaum Olivier Schulbaum
Founder of open source crowdfunding platform Goteo
clara-gaymard Clara Gaymard
CEO of General Electric France