Kiwis want brands to lead on sustainability

By Nikki Wright

A growing number of New Zealanders are receptive to companies that are willing to lead the way in sustainability branding, according to the just-released Better Futures Report 2021.

The research finds that businesses are communicating more clearly about their commitments to a more sustainable world, which is a win.

As recently as 2018, 83% of kiwis registered confusion about the way businesses talk about their social and environmental commitments. Now, that figure has tumbled an astonishing 26 points to 57%, indicating businesses have made enormous progress in getting cut through for their sustainability stories.

The report - based on a survey of 1000 Kiwis by Colmar Brunton and the Sustainable Business Council - comes during a period in which New Zealand continues to recover economically, and the media landscape, altered and more adaptive after the receding crisis, looks for dynamic ways to shape narratives and perceptions.

Here’s what’s going on.

  • Sustainability transformation is underway globally, with data showing that brands with strong brand purpose and responsive to market sentiment, grow brand value at a faster rate.
  • New Zealanders, consistent across all demographics, want government and businesses to show the way, with government at 46%, and companies at 24%, leading individuals at 21%. The implication here is that the public is highly receptive to the leadership and promotional cues of brands when it comes to the promotion of sustainability, which is a great opportunity.

Here’s the storytelling challenge and how we might solve it.

  • In New Zealand, 54% agree that the brands they like don’t do ethical or sustainable versions.
  • New Zealanders have a knowledge gap around shopping and sustainability that brand storytellers need to continue to work on resolving: 79% say it is really hard to tell which products are good or bad ethically for sustainability, 67% say they don't have enough information about how ethical or sustainable different products are, and 50% or respondents say companies don't seem to be trying hard enough, and don’t see why they should either.

Brand leaders have invested large amounts of money in training themselves to be effective sustainability storytellers. Evolving public opinion shows there is now a great opportunity to make good on that training with strong brand leadership.

Brand leaders can start by appreciating the local mindset. The good news is that New Zealanders are more active and engaged in sustainability compared to other markets. According to the new report, 29% of kiwis say they are actively engaged, and 28% somewhat engaged in sustainability, well ahead of the Australian and UK markets.

This reveals that there is an enormous receptivity among the public, and a more favourable risk and reward ratio, for ventures and initiatives businesses may wish to promote around sustainability.

Marketing rhetoric and engagement initiatives must reflect the reality on the ground. Consumers are discerning and proactive in assessing a company’s practical measures: the 29% of respondents describing themselves as ‘actively engaged’ are more likely to notice that sustainable and ethical products aren’t in shops.

For those who have lower engagement, brands need to empower their individual actions to contribute to the greater whole and need to make sustainable options affordable.

Here’s how I recommend we tell sustainability stories for maximum results.

  • Your business sustainability story needs to have a tangible product as its focus.
  • Your business sustainability story could be enhanced using a friendly face to share the ethos, whether a well-known ambassador or a person from within your business.
  • Have the audience DO something which is easy to understand, takes moments and is visible – an opportunity to showcase their own commitment to sustainability. Share a Facebook frame, share a hashtag, upload a video of you etc.

I stated, when analysing the previous year’s Better Futures Report, that if organisations were to heed this advice, the 2021 report would show that Kiwi audiences are supporting a sustainability stance and are more likely to be able to name the brand and the person that inspired them.

To a significant extent, these predictions have come true, with the number of Kiwis confused by the way businesses talk about their social and environmental commitments tracking down an all-time low, and the public showing a tremendous openness to brand leadership around sustainability.

This is a time when, primed to take advantage of these trends, brand leaders can make the most of the sustainability transformation.

Latest Blog Posts

Get in Touch

Give us a call, send us a message or call in and see us.  We’d love to hear from you.