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Behavior Change
For Sustainable Behavior Change, Brands Must Cut Through the Marketing Noise to the Hearts, Values of Consumers

This week at SB’22 San Diego, over 1K sustainability practitioners have converged to share insights, tools, inspiration and opportunities for collaboration with the goal of building a regenerative future for all. Here, we catch up on the latest insights into enlisting the help of consumers to help brands meet their goals.

Monday’s programming slate began with Research Insights Series: The Business Case for Sustainability and Regeneration — a deep dive into the data and analytics set to power the next wave of key sustainability strategies in business.

“If it feels like there’s too much going on, you’re right,” said Valutus founder Daniel Aronson.

He laid the groundwork amongst all the noise for the broader conversation with recent research showing which sustainability and social responsibility issues are mattering most to consumers right now.

Among the highlights, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) continues to have strong momentum across most tracking — as well as privacy and security, which continued strong performance that started prior to the pandemic. Looking ahead, he signaled “early warnings” about lobbying and advocacy, especially as it relates to the preservation of democracy around the world. He connected this issue to potential wider ramifications for business and the global economy into the remainder of the 2020s and beyond.

What’s to come is especially disheartening for those under 30 and radically changing how they interact with commerce and key life decisions, according to BBMG founding partner Raphael Bemporad.

He shared a range of a data from a recent report surveying over 30,000 people in 30 countries, and the findings were stark — 44 percent of youth (those under 30) agree they don’t want to have children because of climate change. It was one of several clear metrics showing change happening in real time.

It’s clear those who identify as Gen Z are feeling the most concurrent effects from climate change as they grow into the early stages of their careers and adult lives, and it’s shifting their key priorities. They’re challenging companies to tackle the most pertinent social and environmental issues of our era, and are taking it into their own hands when they don’t see change at enough of a rapid and effective clip.

With that mindset change and the buying power of Gen Z, it makes sense that consumers overall want companies to take more responsibility when it comes to plastic pollution and waste.

Linear to Circular advisor Chris Oestereich shared data showing how shopping trends in the grocery aisle are shifting towards companies with significant sustainability and social responsibility efforts. He linked it to a “systems-based approach” meant to help companies speed their transition to more responsible and sustainable practices, especially for those who consider themselves behind.

Another area where companies often feel behind is in ESG; and that’s largely due to the mixed opinions on its effectiveness, leading to inaction.

Cora Lee Mooney, ESG consulting partner at PWC, broke down five myths around ESG — helping companies understand that over the long term, ESG-related funds and investments often perform better than their less socially conscious counterparts. Further, she connected the adoption of these pathways to getting ahead of greenwashing scrutiny coming from consumers and government agencies combined.

Consumer scrutiny is becoming louder — especially among those 18-24, per data from NielsenIQ. The company’s VP of total wellness, Sherry Frey, highlighted that this age group is top (55 percent) when it comes to considering and demanding environmentally focused attributes in their purchases; and while “plastic-free and regenerative are still quite small,” “values-driven” buying is gaining momentum across all CPG categories.

Frey also reported 331 percent growth among consumers in supporting minority-owned brands, along with surprising increases in loyalty among associations with high animal welfare standards.

Lastly, Sandy Skees, global lead of purpose & impact at Porter Novelli, connected this overall concern for societal health to a spectrum of how consumers want to solve the climate crisis — at their own speed. Porter Novelli research found that less than half are prepared to make major lifestyle changes to support climate action, with only 8 percent identifying as “fully committed” — the most action-oriented category.

She suggested connecting more education about better-made and more durable products in all industries, as consumers cited more potential of supporting second and third uses of products such as apparel.

What resonated across each presentation was the value for business and customer alike when it comes to the power of consumer choice to create a better world.

Because, as Oestreich summarized, “What’s the ROI of an unlivable world?”

Engaging consumers on the scope 3 emissions journey

A Tuesday afternoon panel featured representatives from four large companies from a variety of industries, all grappling with the issue of reining in emissions associated with use of their products.

As Prakash Arunkundrum, head of global operations and sustainability at Logitech, exclaimed: “98 percent of our emissions are in Scope 3.”

He explained the company’s four-fold climate strategy, aimed at beginning to tackle that large Scope 3 number, taking various approaches to reducing emissions from the operations side at the ground level.

Moderator Ratish Namboothiry, director of Innovation for Good at Kohler Co., posed the question: How do you take a strategy like that and make it easy and digestible for consumers, especially in the face of an oversaturated communications space?

“Transparency is by far the biggest opportunity we have,” he noted. “You can either be extremely precise and super technical, or greenwashing.”

Elizabeth Kinney — senior communications director at Procter & Gamble — explained that, with its stable of some of the US’s biggest household-name brands, the CPG giant uses benefit language to help bridge that gap.

As an example, she noted how P&G is working to help consumers understand both the energy and cost savings of using an energy-efficient dishwasher compared to handwashing. Beyond that, she added that it’s simply a matter of giving consumers the data & tools to help them make decisions.

But even before helping consumers understand their role in helping reduce climate-changing emissions through how they use products, Kinney advised that it starts well before the point of ever making it public: “If you think about what your company already does, think about how you can do that more sustainably.''