The Truth About Sustainable Products: Consumer Perceptions and Actions to Take

September 18, 2023

An overwhelming majority of consumers now prioritize sustainability when making purchasing decisions. But what exactly drives their choices, and more importantly, how can your brand leverage this shift? Dive into the latest insights from regional as well as global surveys to uncover consumer perceptions of sustainable products, the challenges they face, and actionable steps your brand can take to not only meet but exceed their expectations.

How do consumers perceive sustainable products?

Recent surveys indicate a growing interest in sustainable products. However, there are some obstacles that prevent buyers from making more eco-friendly choices.

1. Regional attitudes

According to the 2023 Consumer Sustainability Survey, nearly three-quarters of U.S. respondents (74%) shopped at a retailer promoting their products as sustainable at least once in the 6 months. Nearly the same proportion of consumers (77%) considered or changed their loyalty to sustainable brands.

However, price is the decisive factor when shopping sustainably for more than half of U.S. consumers.

A survey by Deloitte focusing on the UK market revealed the top three reasons for considering products sustainable: 

  1. biodegradability (65%), 
  2. recycled or repurposed material (60%), 
  3. and responsible sourcing or harvesting (56%). 

Nevertheless, when it comes to making a purchase, durability is the most important consideration for 52% of respondents. Similarly, the main reasons preventing people from adopting a more sustainable lifestyle are expensiveness, the lack of interest in this issue as well as the absence of sufficient information.

EY’s Germany-focused survey, too, shows that if a product is too expensive or its sustainability aspect is hard to recognize, it presents an obstacle for shoppers. Deloitte’s results indicate that lower prices (25%), higher income (16%), and labeling of sustainable products (14%) are the main reasons that would motivate respondents to choose more sustainable alternatives.

23% of German consumers said they buy more or almost exclusively sustainable products, with trust, information available and a larger product range being the key factors contributing to this change.

2. Global attitudes

The 2023 Buying Green Report with a global respondent sample showed an increased interest in as well as the willingness to pay more for sustainability. 82% of people would be willing to pay more for sustainable products. Moreover, 71% of people have purchased a product based on its sustainability credentials during the last six months. 76–77% of Gen Z and Millennial respondents prefer buying products in sustainable packaging.

IBM’s global survey presented similar findings. 51% of respondents expressed environmental sustainability was more important to them in 2022 than a year ago. Moreover, almost half of consumers have paid a premium for products labeled as sustainable or socially responsible.

The combination of better quality, greater value for money, and sufficient information about the impact of the purchase would encourage 83% of consumers to buy more sustainable products.

Buyers are ready to pay more for sustainable products but they need transparent information and value.

What can you as a brand do?

Based on the survey findings, there are three main areas to focus on. The following actions can help you to appeal to consumers who are increasingly conscious about sustainability:

1. Communication

It is crucial to provide information that can be quickly grasped and easily understood during the purchasing process – whether it is product labeling, sustainably curated selection, or filter options in online shops.

  • Provide information on the impact of purchase:  Since the majority of global consumers would be encouraged by more facts regarding the impact of their choice, it is a signal for you to provide details on how buying the product positively impacts the environment, society, or local communities. It can also help to justify the cost and provide a deeper value proposition.
  • Highlight sustainability efforts and credentials: Given the high percentage of respondents who consider and shop sustainable brands, you should focus on clear communication of your sustainability efforts in marketing campaigns, in-store displays, and online platforms.
  • Create educational campaigns: Shoppers struggle with getting sufficient information on sustainability not only in the UK or Germany but also on a global scale. That’s why launching educational campaigns that highlight the importance of sustainability, its impact on the environment, and its benefits to consumers is a smart move.

Your educational campaigns should go beyond infographics and explanatory blog posts. Try partnering with NGOs, environmental activists, and experts who can add weight to your claims and help spread the message to a larger audience.

 2. Product

Shoppers take not only price but also product parameters into account when looking for sustainable alternatives, including recyclability, biodegradability, or eco-friendly packaging.  

  • Develop biodegradable products: With 65% of UK respondents considering biodegradability as a key sustainable factor, dedicating resources to the research of biodegradable materials suitable for your products and packaging is a step in the right direction.
  • Expand product range: In line with the findings from EY’s Germany survey, your brand can broaden the range of sustainable products to cater to those consumers who prefer such goods.
  • Switch to sustainable packaging: Given the strong preference of Gen Z and Millennial respondents, you need to examine current packaging materials and identify areas for improvement. Consider alternatives like compostable bioplastics, recycled paper, or seaweed.

Our takeaway containers made from biodegradable and compostable bioplastic decompose within 180 days in industrial compost.

3. Price

While there’s a willingness to pay more for sustainable products, price remains a crucial factor affecting buying behavior. It is known that the cost of these materials is usually higher, but it also depends on the production technology used. At Ecompo, we have managed to reduce the cost of production almost to the price of conventional plastics. Here are other practical steps you can take:

  • Highlight value over time: Instead of merely focusing on the initial cost, it’s necessary to communicate the long-term value and savings of buying durable and sustainable products.
  • Launch premium sustainable lines: Recognizing that a significant portion of global consumers is willing to pay extra costs for sustainability, your brand can introduce a premium sustainable product line. That caters to those willing to pay more while offering standard products for cost-conscious consumers.
  • Offer incentives & discounts: Your business can offer periodic discounts or loyalty rewards for sustainable product purchases to motivate your target group.

It’s essential, however, to ensure that the higher price is justified by tangible sustainable benefits and not merely greenwashing claims.

Ecompo can help

We love working with brands that prioritize sustainability. Let’s develop your custom product that will resonate with your target audience.
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