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Sustainability Matters
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Fifty-five percent of global 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, according to a new study by Nielsen. The propensity to buy socially responsible brands is strongest in Asia-Pacific (64%), Latin America (63%) and Middle East/Africa (63%). The numbers for North America and Europe are 42 and 40 percent, respectively.

“Consumers around the world are saying loud and clear that a brand’s social purpose is among the factors that influence purchase decisions,” said Amy Fenton, global leader of public development and sustainability, Nielsen. “This behavior is on the rise and it provides opportunities for meaningful impact in our communities, in addition to helping to grow share for brands.”

The Nielsen Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility polled 30,000 consumers in 60 countries* to understand: how passionate consumers are about sustainable practices when it comes to purchase considerations; which consumer segments are most supportive of ecological or other socially responsible efforts; and which social issues/causes are attracting the most concern.

More than half of global respondents (52%) say they have purchased at least one product or service in the past six months from a socially responsible company, with respondents in Latin America (65%), Asia-Pacific (59%) and Middle East/Africa (59%) exceeding the global average. Four in 10 respondents in North America and Europe say they have made a sustainable purchase in the past six months.

Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility Efforts Can Boost the Bottom Line

Finding consumers around the world who say they care about the environment or extreme poverty is relatively easy. But does care about issues convert to action when it comes to buying decisions?

Some fifty-two percent of global respondents in Nielsen’s survey say their purchase decisions are partly dependent on the packaging – they check the labeling first before buying to ensure the brand is committed to positive social and environmental impact. Sustainable purchase considerations are most influenced by the packaging in Asia-Pacific (63%), Latin America (62%) and Middle East/Africa (62%) and to a lesser extent in Europe (36%) and North America (32%).

To determine if the sentiments expressed by respondents are supported by actual retail performance, Nielsen also reviewed retail sales data for a cross-section of both consumable and non-consumable categories across 20 brands in nine countries. These brands either included sustainability claims on packaging or actively promoted their sustainability actions through marketing efforts. The results from a March 2014 year-over-year analysis show an average annual sales increase of two percent for products with sustainability claims on the packaging and a lift of five percent for products that promoted sustainability actions through marketing programs. A review of 14 other brands without sustainability claims or marketing shows a sales rise of only one percent.

The “Sustainable Mainstream”

In an effort to separate the passive eco-friendly consumer from the passionate, Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), a Nielsen strategic business collaborator, conducted a nine-country online study to understand how global attitudes and behaviors about sustainability engagement are changing. Consumers were clustered into five segments to quantify what attracts them to sustainability actions.

The findings reveal that two-thirds of the “sustainable mainstream” population (a cluster of three of the five segments) will choose products from sustainable sources over other conventional products. These consumers will buy as many eco-friendly products as they can and have personally changed their behavior to minimize their impact on global climate change. Additionally, these consumers are more likely to buy products repeatedly from a company if they know the company is mindful of its impact on the environment and society.

Millennials (age 21-34) appear more responsive to sustainability actions. Among global respondents in Nielsen’s survey who are responsive to sustainability actions, half are Millennials; they represent 51 percent of those who will pay extra for sustainable products and 51 percent of those who check the packaging for sustainable labeling.

Regionally, there are wide gaps between younger and older respondents in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East/Africa regions. In these largely developing regions, Millennial respondents in favor of sustainability actions are three times more agreeable, on average, to sustainability actions than Generation X (age 35-49) respondents and 12 times more agreeable, on average, than Baby Boomer (age 50-64) respondents.

Said Fenton, “It’s no longer a question if consumers care about social impact. Consumers do care and show they do through their actions. Now the focus is on determining how your brand can effectively create shared value by marrying the appropriate social cause and consumer segments.”

* Note: The findings in this survey are based on respondents with online access in 60 countries. While an online survey methodology allows for tremendous scale and global reach, it provides a perspective only on the habits of existing Internet users, not total populations. In developing markets where online penetration is still growing, audiences may be younger and more affluent than the general population of that country. In addition, survey responses are based on claimed behavior rather than actual metered data.











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