New Kantar Sustainable Transformation Practice to help New Zealand companies go from ambition to action

New Zealand businesses looking for guidance on how to navigate the world of consumers and sustainability can now call on support from the newly opened local Kantar Sustainable Transformation Practice.

Jason Cate, appointed to lead the practice, will be responsible for giving New Zealand companies access to the resources of this specialist practice within the world’s leading consumer insights, marketing data and analytics company.

Cate says nearly 100 per cent of the CEOs of the world's largest companies believe sustainability is critical to their companies' future success, but the challenge is moving from ambition to action.

“There are many barriers to companies going from talking about sustainability to being sustainable in a meaningful way and understanding where consumers values and actions are at is just part of the puzzle,” says Cate.

“Transforming companies to be sustainable is a hard job. Company executives are under pressure from so many angles, including maintaining short-term profitability and the multiple challenges in transforming how a business operates. We are here to support them with evidence-based advice with consumer data from 80 countries around the world including just about any economy that could be of interest to New Zealand exporters.”

Kantar’s Chief Client Officer Sarah Bolger notes these tensions parallel what is happening to consumers at the same time. “In our last Better Futures Report Kiwis told us it was too much effort to be sustainable. The main barriers to consumers buying sustainable products are time, money, and effort.

“Companies which simply tell the market ‘We’re green’ or preach the value of being sustainable will just make consumers feel bad about themselves because they still face the barriers of time, money, and effort.

“There are clear examples of large businesses, both overseas and in New Zealand which are walking the talk by making real changes to their business operations by putting sustainability at the heart of their decision making. And these businesses understand that only a small proportion of people will buy a product just because it is sustainable – it needs to be in the right bottle, have the right flavour or consistency. For most consumers, it needs to be all those things first and then also be sustainable.”

Bolger also says the rising cost of living has affected people’s sense of being able to make a difference.

“People still want to do the right thing, but the prevailing attitude now is ‘I’ll do it if it’s easy or affordable for me.’ There is a sense of frustration and anger that individuals can’t effect change and that this should be the responsibility of government and big business.”

With so many businesses striving to communicate their sustainable credentials, it’s essential to understand how those messages are being received. Cate says companies should be honest regarding their own evolution. “People respond well to displays of vulnerability but also hope. If you tell consumers you are on a journey, they like that.

“The spirit of sustainability is transparency. Product traceability is just a surrogate for trust. Very few people actually want to trace their lamb cutlet back to the farm it came from – but if people know they can, they will have trust in the product and the company behind it.”

Bolger says no matter how hard sustainable transformation is, New Zealand companies need to make the change or risk being left behind.

“Big overseas retailers are looking for evidence our exporters are doing the right thing to build trust with their consumers. If we don’t provide it, we’ll be frozen out.

“Kantar’s research base tells us how consumers behave in different market sectors when it comes to sustainability. This can give companies confidence to make the hard decisions needed to transform to genuine sustainability. We understand consumer sentiment, behaviours, barriers, and context – and that brings important objectivity to businesses.”

Kantar New Zealand and Australia Managing Director Jon Foged says, “Both Jason and Sarah have a long history in driving positive outcomes in the sustainability space for our clients. Leveraging their leadership, passion and expertise combined by our powerful global Kantar sustainability network will facilitate momentum in this incredibly important sector.”

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