By Wright Communications -
24 November 2016
New Zealand businesses recognise the importance of sustainability, but they need to invest in their communication to get full value from their sustainability programmes.
The latest Colmar Brunton 2016 'Better Futures' report shows New
Zealand consumers live up to this country's "100% Pure" slogan,
caring deeply about both environmental and social issues.
The survey found nine out of 10 Kiwis have either a medium or
high commitment to sustainability. Many Kiwis are prepared to back
up their convictions by voting with their wallets, with around
seven out of 10 consumers willing to pay more for sustainable,
organic or ethically sourced products. But when it comes to the
checkout line, there is a big problem: they struggle to pick out
the sustainable brands.
Seven out of 10 Kiwi consumers cannot name any organisation as a
leader in sustainability, either locally or globally. Almost half
(49%) cannot even name one sustainable company. Needless to say,
your company's sustainability efforts are not going to bring in new
business if consumers do not notice them.
It gets worse: three-quarters of consumers say the way
businesses talk about their social and environmental commitments is
confusing and hard to understand. This is a slight improvement from
the 2015 survey, but it must make frustrating reading for
businesses that try to do the right thing by being sustainable,
only to fall at the final hurdle. What happened to the KISS
principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid)?
For the first time ever, in the seventh year of this
longitudinal study, the Better Futures survey included questions
about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It found
that 77% of New Zealanders had never heard of these goals, and 92%
were not aware New Zealand had signed up to them.
When informed as to what these goals are, New Zealanders agree
with them: between 60% and 80% rated each of the 17 individual
goals as important. When those people were asked to name the single
most important goal the top six in order of priority were: no
poverty, good health and well-being, quality education, sustainable
cities and communities, clean water and sanitation, and zero
However, only 3% of Kiwis say New Zealand is a world leader in
an area of sustainability they deem to be important. More
generally, Better Futures revealed 83% of New Zealanders worry
about the future and whether we're doing enough to keep New Zealand
a safe and healthy place to live. The top concerns were violence in
society (71%), the increasing cost of housing (67%) and protecting
Kiwi children (66%).
While the top concerns are mainly social issues, environmental
issues are gaining prominence. Five out of the eight fastest-rising
concerns between 2011 and 2016 were environmental, including the
impact of climate change on New Zealand (+16%), unsustainable use
of natural resources (+14%) and protection of conservation land and
These environmental issues are where companies should focus
their energy, the findings from the Better Futures survey suggest.
The top five businesses New Zealanders view as sustainable, such as
ecostore, Z and Meridian have positioned themselves as sustainable
leaders in brand communications.
What these companies have is a clear, easy to understand message
around sustainability. Sadly, they are in the minority. The
research tells us that sustainability goals are very important to
Kiwis but regardless of what businesses and the public sector are
doing in this area, the messages are not getting through to the
Are businesses and government organisations putting enough
emphasis on telling these stories that the public want to hear? Do
they have a plan to communicate these stories effectively?
The good news is that the poor communication overall is an
opportunity for companies who get it right, particularly those in
industries such as energy, where 75% of Kiwis say their buying is
influenced by sustainability. And close behind energy are food and
beverage production (73%) and food retailers (71%) with banks,
insurance companies and cosmetics and personal care products the
fastest risers when it comes to the influence of sustainability on
With that in mind, businesses need to ask themselves whether
they are including sustainability in their briefs to their
advertising and PR agencies and conversely, are their agencies
encouraging them to add sustainability messages to their core brand
When you invest in your sustainability programme, don't forget
to ensure your communication around sustainability is adequately
resourced, with people who understand the subject delivering the
message. In many cases the investment in communications alone will
deliver an ROI (consumer engagement, loyalty, sales etc), without
the need to add more sustainability initiatives.
Being sustainable may help save the planet, but unless you
communicate it effectively it won't save your business.