Facebook Pixel From the niche to the mainstream: sustainability as a value for brands

From the niche to the mainstream: sustainability as an essential value attribute for brands and products

November 12, 2021

Reading time8 minutes

The sustainability theme has been gaining more relevance among consumers and should be considered a strategic pillar within companies that want to ensure the future of business.

Sustainability is no longer an attribute that is limited to a certain niche when we talk about the consumer market. The health of the planet and concern about the long-term effects of human activities are becoming increasingly important to consumers.

A recent Who Cares, Who Does Latam study by Kantar, a global leader in data and consulting, indicates that as the pandemic is being overcome, sustainability is gaining prominence in the minds of consumers, guiding their behaviour and influencing purchasing decisions. According to the survey, 62% of shoppers said sustainability is more important than Covid-19. 

And this concern has the potential to grow further, influencing daily habits in a long term, indicates another survey by Mintel, in which 67% of consumers agreed that it was worth paying more for a product from a socially responsible company. In addition, 58% said they changed their brand or product for another that supports a cause they believe in.

And there’s more: brands that have environmentally engaged people among their buyers grow up to 7% more than the average.

In other words, sustainability is starting to occupy an irreplaceable place on the consumer’s life and can no longer be left out of the strategic pillar of companies. 

How eco-active consumers behave

Identified by Kantar as eco-active, environmentally conscious consumers represent a share of 16% in Latin America. In contrast, they are the ones who spend the most on FCGM (fast-moving consumer goods) among the three groups identified by the company in the study. Disbursement for products with sustainable claim reaches US$ 12billion in 2021, in Latin America. The number represents a growth of 18% compared to 2020, the highest percentage compared to the other 2 groups. 

The trend is towards democratization of this profile, which is currently more cantered on higher classes and mature people. This is likely to change soon with the growing entry into the lower social classes and younger audiences as information on sustainability spreads. Estimates indicate that by 2030, 43% of the population will be active, that is, engaged. Therefore, the recommendation is that brands start communicating with this audience right away.

Another warning from this study is that brands and product categories that tend to perform poorly among eco-actives face large losses when the population changes. Gaining preference among sustainable consumers takes time, but action must be taken now to benefit in years to come.

“It is also worth mentioning that Brazil is a multicultural country. The Southeast region has a slightly higher percentage of assets, for example. That’s why we always reiterate the importance of seeking a local understanding to look at this data before your brand and your category to appropriate these people as soon as possible”, analysed Kesley Gomes, Kantar’s Director Latam, during the webinar Who Cares, Who Does Can 2021.

Regarding habits associated with sustainable practices in the country, Mintel identified that those most adopted by Brazilians involve the reduction of waste of resources such as food, by 66% of respondents, and water, by 62%. It is also interesting to note that these habits are associated with the domestic economy and this has great weight in an inflation scenario.

Still looking at Brazilian consumers, for a product or brand to be considered sustainable, the three most mentioned actions in the Mintel interview were: having packaging that is better for the environment (66%), having recycling programs (64%), and using non-polluting energy (53%).

Another important insight is that sustainability and ethics are values that go hand in hand. For 32% of respondents, a company cannot be ethical without being sustainable. And for 57% of respondents, for a company to be considered ethical it needs to offer products made sustainably.

How to engage consumers regarding sustentability

Adopting actions to reduce waste can be a way of attracting the attention of consumers, as it establishes parallels between domestic habits and the actions of brands. It is also important to show how waste is harmful at different stages of the production chain. 

In Brazil, according to the Kantar survey, the rate of distant consumers, that is, not engaged in conscious consumption, is high. But another strategy that can also work with this audience is to encourage the consumption of locally made products. In addition, companies can also help consumers identify how much they save by adopting sustainable habits.

But how and where to communicate with this audience? In Latin America, 49% of people use social media to search for information about the environment, especially Facebook, followed by YouTube. In Brazil, this number jumps to 62%. There is also a search for information on the brands’ websites, which reinforces the importance of a content strategy to generate engagement. 

The role of retail in sustainable initiatives

Retail is not usually seen as a sector that can contribute to the environment. Therefore, there is an opportunity to do something different and add value to the brands and services of retailers, but it is necessary to act quickly. Brands abroad are already moving in this direction, but only 44% of people are somehow satisfied with the sustainable retail service they are used to consume. In Brazil, this number is only 27%, finds Kantar.

Several factors influence this consumer perception, including:

  • The variety of locally produced items;
  • Whether product sustainability is affordable;
  • The variety of products with recyclable packaging;
  • If the retail chain is recognized for its sustainable values;
  • If the store avoids plastic bags;
  • Variety of products with sustainable ingredients;
  • If there is a specific sector for green products;
  • And, finally, if traveling to the store causes any environmental impact. 

An example of an initiative in retail comes from Pão de Açúcar, in Brazil, which carried out a campaign to make consumers aware of actions to combat climate change. In February 2021, the brand launched “Cada Dia Conta” which seeks to mobilize consumers and educate them about how small everyday gestures can have a positive impact on the environment.

Another example comes from Finnish supermarket chain S-market, which has 900 stores and in 2019 launched a campaign to reduce food waste while offering more affordable prices to consumers. The chain now holds a daily happy hour, when items nearing expiration are sold at heavily discounted prices. According to the retailer, thanks to the action, some stores in September 2019 achieved a 10% reduction in food waste, and the company’s goal was to reduce waste by 15% by 2020.

Plastic consumption and packaging recycling 

Plastic waste is a legitimate and growing issue among consumers. In Brazil, the population that says it is concerned about the problem grew from 6% to 8% between 2020 and 2021. 

In the evaluation of this audience, the plastic bag is seen as the worst product, followed by plastic bottles and utensils. Carton packs can be a strategy in terms of packaging, suggests the Kantar study.

Data from the survey carried out by Mintel shows that, for 66% of people, for a brand or product to be considered sustainable, it must use packaging that does not harm the environment, such as recyclable or biodegradable ones.

Another point of attention, according to Kantar’s manager, is that, in Brazil, a significant part of consumers report difficulty in finding information about recycling on packaging or how to dispose of biodegradable packaging, which points to a need for improvement in communication and strategy to make this information reach people. 

The Mintel study reinforces another finding in this regard, as 69% of respondents agreed that it is difficult to understand the certifications on product packaging.

In this sense, a good example of simple and effective communication comes from Ecuador, with the brand of juices and mineral water Imperial. The drinks are sold in recyclable cans and the packaging goes straight to the point to explain how the material can be infinitely reused.

Food and sustainability

Having healthy eating habits is also associated with a sustainable lifestyle. Organic, plant-based foods or ingredients with natural appeal reinforce the perception of this attribute. 

But beyond the development of food, it is necessary that they are linked to actions of an ethical nature, generating social well-being for communities or local producers. 

Urban Social Garden
Products are cultivated by homeless people trained in Urban Agriculture by the project.
Kiebitzhof Organic Biscuit
Produced in the Kiebtzhof organic farm bakery, it is made with freshly ground cereal. It is sold in packaging bearing sustainable certification logos, in a bakery that employs and develops people with disabilities.
This isn't Chicken
All of the brand's products are herbal and come with a chart on their packaging comparing the carbon dioxide emissions of their product.

All this data and the analysis of changing consumer behaviour show that brands that want to increase their perception of value and ensure their long-term market presence need to adopt positions in favour of sustainability, a comprehensive attribute that encompasses many environmental and social. In this strategy, it is also the role of companies to raise awareness and inform their consumers with consistent initiatives so that they can, in fact, be perceived as sustainable. 

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