April 16, 2015

Social Sustainability : does it drive purchases?

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According to the Guardian, companies that adopted environmental, social and governance policies in the 1990s have outperformed those that didn’t.

55% of online consumers across 60 countries say they are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact (Nielsen). 52% of global respondents say they have purchased at least one product or service in the past six months from a socially responsible company. The annual above-market average return for the high-sustainability sample was 4.8% higher than for their counterparts and with lower volatility.

Millennials represent 51% of those who will pay extra for sustainable products and who check the packaging for sustainable labeling. 71% of Centennials go further by saying: “Always having new stuff is overrated when what I have already is good enough”.

Brands are connecting to this three ways:

Grassroots Social Mission: in action sports, brands like Sweet Cheeks and Drink Water have cultivated a following through social media and athlete initiative to raise awareness of their cause to a young audience. These brands are small in numbers but have a big presence with donated resources from athletes, agents and agencies (like yours truly). Giving isn’t huge, but the message gets out and awareness is half the battle.

Brand as vehicle for Social Change: Toms is by far the most successful example of this – their whole DNA and position is that giving back is the most important part of being a brand. Why buy products from anyone else when you can buy theirs and someone in need gets a pair of shoes, glasses, or clean water assistance. They deliver in the “One for One” capacity and are constantly working on improving conditions, process and more localized production.

Brand with Ethics: Patagonia has had steady market growth over the past few years (+30%) by being committed to innovating sustainable manufacturing, standing for longterm investment by repairing your products for life (even championing those stories of well loved product with Worn Wear), and giving back to the environment by supporting activists and partners with shared values (like Protect Our Winters).

Consumers are making choices to go with purchases that bring a benefit beyond the transaction. This behavior is on the rise – it’s time to prioritize pairing the social cause with your brand’s consumer.

Let us help you strategize ways to infuse your messaging achievable social sustainability elements. Consumers will notice.

[1] Robert Eccles, Ioannis Ioannou, and George Serafeim for the Guardian Professional Network
[2] The Nielsen Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility