Are Companies Ready for Mass Market Sustainability?
Alan L. Johnson
It would appear that more and more companies are using buzz terms like “sustainable,” “green,” and “eco” to great appeal from consumers. Even secondhand shopping and fashion sharing is becoming a normally marketed form of eco-friendly consumerism. With Millennials and Generation Z there is passionate and mainstream interest in being sustainable, but in a recent article published in WWD, the question of whether or not brands are ready for this change is questioned. Kali Hays, in her article, “Consumers are Ready for Full Sustainability, Brands Aren’t” describes a market where younger generations of consumers are fully supportive of new sustainable brands and products. In fact, she reports that Cone Communications, an affiliate of global marketing firm Porter Novelli wrote in new brand research that:
“Purpose helps companies create deeper and longer-lasting bonds with consumers as Americans feel these firms care about them, their communities and the issues that are important to them, here, true brand loyalty is bred and curated.”
In fact Kali goes on to describe that a lack of brand loyalty is a hurdle for most consumer-focused companies now. She describes a world in which convenience trumps most consumer value and it is only the brands that connect with purpose who are able to keep eyeballs and ultimately attention.
Mary Leou, a professor at New York University focused on conservation and education, described that:
“If labels say eco-friendly, or [note] sustainably sourced materials, I think people who are more conscious about their choices would like to see these terms on product labels.”
What is more interesting is that Timo Rissanen, associate dean at Parsons School of Design, describes that words like “organic,” "sustainable,” and even “clean” are “proxies of trust.”
It is these proxies of trust that some brands are trying to use to attract more customers and create a lasting brand promise. While not all companies are the same and some are still green-washing products and services to serve this targeted audiences, there are some companies doing really progressive things with their brands. The verdict however is out on whether more premium brands will be able to make the switch given their clientele and product constituents.
Reality Changing Observations:
Q1. What can the industry that you work in do to be more sustainable?
Q2. How much more would you pay for a sustainable product?
Q3. Where have you seen sustainable products in your community?