Sustainability is a ‘hard to sell’

Here is a great article by Steve Spencer from Fresh Agenda that I am unashamedly reblogging

Getting the pitch right

Sustainability is a hard to sell – in spite of being important to consumers.

Socially and environmentally conscious attitudes are gaining ground – thanks to media campaigns for years around environmental sustainability. But corresponding purchases and behaviours are stagnating or even heading south.

The National Geographic’s Greendex 2014 survey on Consumer Choice and the Environment across 18 countries found that though the number of global consumers who say they are very concerned about the environment (61%) has increased since 2012, sustainable purchasing behaviour has actually decreased in key markets such as US, Germany, Japan, Canada, and China.

But why aren’t consumers putting their money where their sustainable aspirations are?

The answer lies somewhere in the gap between what consumers say they want and what they actually buy.

The Sustainable Lifestyles Frontier Group – established to confront this “value-action” gap – says the problem isn’t with consumer values but with the value offered by brands. Over the years, consumers have been cajoled, coerced, and guilt-tripped by marketers into doing the “right” thing for the higher purpose of sustainability, for planetary or collective benefits.

However for most sustainable products and behaviours, the hard question of “what’s in it for me?” is still largely unanswered – with the most important personal value proposition still missing. On a day to day basis, purchasing decisions are centred on an individual’s own priorities and the immediate needs of their family.

While values, ethics and beliefs are hugely important when making major life decisions but how decisive a role do they play when choosing shampoo.

Shoppers are most likely to be motivated to buy a sustainable product if they also see a personal benefit.

That benefit could be functional with the promise of value for money, performance, quality, and safety; demonstrating emotional, such as delivering an intangible hit of emotion; or social which helps make a statement about the shopper to the world.

Even tiny direct benefits could close the gap and lead to behaviour change – such as sustainable eating (with less pesticides or unhealthy food additives) can lead to weight loss, or natural body care products will smell nicer and are gentle for sensitive skin.

It may seem at odds with the sustainability mantra – surely doing the right thing by the planet and future generations should be enough to persuade people to change their purchases and other behaviours. However, the more pragmatic approach is to recognise that sustainable brands also need to deliver personal and immediate benefits – even if they’re small – to cut through.

Author: Lynne Strong

I am a 6th generation farmer who loves surrounding myself with optimistic, courageous people who believe in inclusion, diversity and equality and embrace the power of collaboration. I am the founder of Picture You in Agriculture. Our team design and deliver programs that inspire pride in Australian agriculture and support young people to thrive in business and life

3 thoughts on “Sustainability is a ‘hard to sell’”

  1. Don’t like articles like that! Reminds of Abbott and co with renewables etc. we NEED to change as what we are doing is not working. Articles like this undermine the slow change of people to ethical buying. Why do we have to have an absolute scar like hep a etc before we think of changing. We must keep prodding before the bad stuff happens. My thoughts for the night!!

    Sent from my iPhone


      1. We are all on a journey and at different stages. But why put it down? We know chemical kills soil biota. Fossil fuels are ultimately going to increase in price. Renewables are the future. Carbon in soil is the best. We need to encourage every small step anyone takes.

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