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Report Finds Peers, Consumer Reviews Now as Trusted as Certifications for Sustainability Claims

A recent study by BBMG, GlobeScan and SustainAbility claims social sources such as consumer reviews, blogs and message boards as well as friends, family and co-workers now rival traditional sources such as certifications and media reports as consumers’ most trusted sources for determining whether a product is socially and environmentally responsible.

*Re:Thinking Consumption: Consumers and the Future of Sustainability *says consumers in emerging markets such as Brazil, China and India are more than four times as likely as those in developed markets such as the U.S., UK and Germany to turn to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as trusted sources of information.

“Our findings reflect the new context for corporate reputation and trust, as peer-to-peer communication and social platforms rival certifications and media reports as the most reliable sources of information on sustainable product claims for consumers,” says Eric Whan, Sustainability Director at GlobeScan. “Forward-thinking brands will increasingly tap peer networks and social media channels to try to drive trust. Authenticity will determine their success.”

The study’s key findings include:

Most Trusted Sources: Consumers’ most trusted sources “to inform you about whether a product is environmentally and socially responsible” include certification seals or labels on product packaging (40%), media reports (31%), consumer reviews, ratings, blogs or message boards (28%), friends, family or co-workers (27%) and government information or reports (25%).

Least Trusted Sources: Consumers’ least trusted sources include company advertisements (11%), films or documentaries (11%), company website or Facebook page (7%) and church, temple or other spiritual communities (3%). Five percent of consumers say they have “no way of knowing who to trust for this information.”

Market Differences: Twenty-two percent of consumers in emerging markets identify “social media like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn” as one of their most trusted sources of information, while only 5% of consumers in developed markets choose the same.

Twenty percent of consumers in emerging markets identify “corporate social responsibility or sustainability reports” as one of their most trusted sources of information, while only 9% of consumers in developed markets choose the same.

In February, the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer found that fewer than 20 percent of consumers believe business leaders tell the truth when confronted with difficult issues, and are twice as likely to trust academics, technical experts or even their peers.

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