There is a limit to how much companies can expect consumers to pay for higher sustainability standards—a limit in terms of the price that they will be willing to pay and also in terms of the market share that can be commanded, according to a new report by U.K.-based Sustainable Food Supply Chains Commission.
The report, The Long and the Short of It, says consumers who aren't prepared to pay a premium for high standards present a problem for food and drink companies hoping to advance their sustainability agenda. Companies that aspire to promoting social and environmental sustainability in their supply chains are competing with other companies that may not share those aspirations.
But the report offers reason to hope; an increasing number of people are becoming interested in sustainability issues. They must be engaged with as citizens and as consumers, and given the opportunity to make a 'specific practical difference to the lives of the people they want to help.'
The report identifies the important role of government leadership in fostering sustainable food systems—not just in the U.K., but also at the European Union level. Regulation can be 'empowering' for companies, allowing them to do what they may be held back from doing by the pressures of market competition.
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A separate report released in November found that forward-thinking restaurant operators are more frequently using marketing strategies that incorporate health, safety and environmental concerns, which can resonate with consumers seeking out more responsible restaurants and food choices. The report says restaurants and companies that help lead the way on sustainability issues will likely reap dividends in the form of the patronage of an approving mainstream public.
Last year, the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) found that more than half (56 percent) of diners would pay more for a meal if they knew the restaurant was investing in reducing its environmental impact and taking its social responsibility seriously. Some 43 percent of diners would pay up to 10 percent more for a meal in a sustainable restaurant.