By Simon Roche -
11 November 2015
Kiwi businesses need to sharpen their communication on sustainability or miss out on growing consumer interest in the subject, new research has revealed.
Colmar Brunton's 2015 Better Futures report focuses on consumer
behaviour towards socially, environmentally and economically
This year's survey contains some positive signs for businesses
that have a strong sustainability focus, but it also highlights
areas where improvement is needed.
Here is the bad news: many businesses that have embraced
sustainability are struggling to clearly communicate their
The Better Futures survey found 71 per cent of consumers can't
name any brand or organisation as a leader in sustainability.
Even more of a concern was the 81 per cent of consumers surveyed
who agreed that the way businesses talk about their social and
environmental commitment was hard to understand.
This was up from 74 per cent last year, showing that despite the
best efforts of many Kiwi businesses to be sustainable, their
communication is letting them down.
Having a comprehensive sustainability strategy for your business
is not enough on its own to get the attention of consumers.
The story you tell about your sustainability credentials has to
be simple, consistent and easy to understand.
The good news is that Kiwis' purchasing behaviour is more
influenced by sustainability than ever and Generation Y consumers
are even more eco-conscious than other age groups.
A significant majority of consumers say they buy eco-friendly
cleaning products (84 per cent) and grow their own fruit and
vegetables (77 per cent). More than half (56 per cent) are
considering green energy sources for their home.
Colmar Brunton CEO Jacqueline Farman says 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
"Consumers want to see these values from their own lives
reflected in the businesses and brands they deal with.
Sustainability is increasingly influencing purchase behaviour
across all 13 market categories we surveyed," Farman said.
Almost one in three consumers across all age groups said their
purchasing of Fairtrade, ethical, socially responsible and
environmentally friendly products would increase over the next 12
months with Gen Y consumers leading the charge.
They are also prepared to pay a premium for products that fit
their values, with 65 per cent of Gen Y consumers willing to spend
more for the best organic, sustainable and ethically produced
products and brands available.
These results show the potential benefits for businesses who
adopt sustainability as a core value.
Embracing sustainability as a business can attract not only
customers but workers as well. Three quarters of Kiwis surveyed
said it was important to work for a company that is socially and
If businesses want guidance on how to improve their
sustainability messaging, they should look at the brands that were
named as leaders in sustainability.
The top five this year were Eco Store, Meridian, Trade Aid,
Whittaker's and Toyota. Of the five, Wright Communications
has worked extensively with both Eco Store and Toyota on their
There are several things businesses can do to sharpen their
sustainability programme and improve their communications around
this aspect of their business.
These include investing in strategic communications with expert
advice, reporting on their sustainability progress, conducting
materiality assessments, engaging key stakeholders, certifying and
getting independent assurance of their products and services.
But above all else, these businesses are clear in their message
and have worked hard to build their reputations as sustainability
leaders over a number of years, connecting it with the products and
services they provide (for example, Meridian is known for its use
of renewable power generation).
They also have positive standing with the public in general,
which gives credibility to their sustainability message.
If you want consumers to associate your business with
sustainability you should start investing now, because
eco-conscious consumers won't wait for you to get your act