Whiplash Team, 22nd January 2021

Sustainable and transparent, the new duty for brands to survive

A good product is no longer enough. Consumers want more. The Sustainability Perception Index 2020 recently published by Latana reveals that sustainability and transparency have become strategic issues not only for the success of a brand, but for its survival.

Consumers increasingly give greater importance to sustainability, which for brands has gone from being desirable to essential. A study by the consulting firm Deloitte carried out in 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, already showed how shopping habits were changing and how sustainable consumption was gaining followers around the world.

The pandemic and lockdown in 2020 have only increased that trend. A recent study, conducted by the consulting firm Latana in 11 countries on all continents, has revealed that consumers now require brands to care more about the impact of their business on the environment and society. This study gave rise to the Sustainability Perception Index 2020 that identifies the expectations of users in relation to the performance of organizations and their brands in terms of sustainable practices.

The study notes that approximately 61% of respondents say that sustainability will be even more important after Covid-19, and that more than 50% are willing to pay more for sustainable branded products.  The data confirms an upward trend for some years now. On the other hand, it also reveals that “sustainable products are outselling those perceived as unsustainable, which reinforces the argument that sustainable products and practices are not only good for the planet, but also good for company growth”.

In any case, consumers are increasingly aware of their power to bring about the changes they want in the behaviour of brands. In addition, thanks to the Internet, social networks and on-line organizations for responsible consumption, users can identify which brands offer sustainable options and have a purpose that transcends into profitability.

Of course, the transition to sustainability is not easy. It involves concrete actions, changes in production models and effective communication that connects with the expectations of the brand’s users. It also requires commitment at all levels of the organization and investment.

In any case, it is time to act. To make decisions and communicate them with consistency and coherence. Brands can make significant changes in their business models, in their production processes and in their supply chains that benefit both the environment and society and, incidentally, add value for the user and generate benefits for the company.

In doing so, they must bear in mind that consumers are not only looking at the environmental aspect of sustainability, but also at its social aspect. They do not just expect brands to offer products made from recycled material, free of polluting chemicals or use recyclable packaging. They also want them to be committed to fair trade practices, that they have good employment and salary policies and that they are transparent.

The higher the expectations of customers, the greater the demand for brands to align their actions with their message and pay more attention to transparency. They must get consumers to see the efforts they make in all aspects of the business, from the base materials to their sustainability agenda.

Consumers want brands that are authentic. That they do not use social or environmental causes as mere marketing strategies. And they want much more than your products. They want to know what you do and how you do it and if the brand does not provide them with the information, they will seek it out by other means. Patagonia, the outdoor clothing brand, is an example of consistency between its statement of purpose of “creating the best product, without causing unnecessary harm, using the business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis”, and its actions.

How does Patagonia do it? It invests in renewable energy, it encourages its workers to share a vehicle and thus pollute less, it has created a program to manage the environmental and chemical impacts of its global supply chain, the products are durable and when possible, it uses raw materials that cause less environmental damage, donates 1% of its sales to environmental groups around the world, promotes fair labour practices and safe working conditions throughout its supply chain and actively participates in campaigns for environmental causes such as the preservation of the national parks in the United States. Is it profitable? In 2019 it obtained more than 18 million euros in revenue and net profits of 4.5 million euros.

Consistency between storytelling and action protects brand reputation and makes it credible to consumers. It is no longer just a question of whether sustainability and transparency are an intrinsic part of the purpose of the organization, but that they have become strategic priorities to create a competitive advantage for the brand allowing it to win the trust and loyalty of its consumers.

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