Today’s conscious consumers are asking brands to support their commitment to bettering the world we live in. A shopper reducing their carbon footprint by biking to a store instead of driving wants the products they purchase to mirror their commitment to go green. In fact, 78% of consumers say it’s important to them that brands have eco-friendly product choices available for purchase.
What’s driving this increase in value-based purchasing? Shaping the world with purchasing power is not a new concept. In the 1820s, Englishwoman Elizabeth Heyrick asked her peers in Europe to cease purchasing goods produced by slave labour in the West Indies. Instead, she encouraged early consumers to seek sugar produced in Britain’s East Indies colonies, where workers were free men and women.
What’s changed today is the increasing number of people who want to be conscious consumers and support causes that are dear to them. Most recently, the pandemic gave consumers across the globe a front-row seat to a marked increase in climate change-driven natural disasters. They watched as a record number of hurricanes, wildfires and floods created more than $210 billion worth of damage during 2020. With the evidence of climate change playing out before their eyes, today’s consumers want their product purchases to contribute towards its solution.
Australians are especially aware of the need for green purchasing habits
Last year, a survey of 2,000 Australians found that global warming was their biggest social or environmental concern, even edging out COVID-19. They reported being most concerned about the oceans, climate change and plastic waste. Nearly 80% said brands and products should support causes or change their products that address social and environmental issues.
Participants in the survey also shared what they’ve done recently to help the environment and reduce their individual carbon footprint, like buying clothing made from recycled materials, buying cleaning products made from recycled plastic, switching to local Australian food brands, and cutting back on plastic takeaway containers.
Local brands are finding creative ways to meet consumer needs by reducing their carbon footprint. The regional brewer Lion said it would remove plastic shrink-wrap from its beer packaging within the next two years and replace the plastic labels on its beer bottles with biodegradable or paper alternatives. These decisions should remove more than 630 Tonnes of plastic per year from circulation.
The Australian lifestyle brand Nagnata is reducing landfill bulk by opposing fast, disposable fashion. The brand will only use organic and renewable fibers in its garments. Team Timbuktu sells activewear made from recycled plastic bottles, and the brand plants a tree for every placed order. Global retailer H&M also pledged to use 100% recycled or sustainably sourced materials by 2030.
Brands need to show their work when it comes to eco-responsibility
It’s exciting to see brands doing their part to protect our environment, but many need to do a better job of sharing that information with consumers. In February 2021, the major CPG brand Unilever announced the introduction of carbon labeling to 30,000 of its products, expecting to soon test carbon footprint labels on about two dozen items. The makeup brand L’Oreal has also pledged to roll out environmental labeling on its products by 2030.
What exactly is the carbon labeling that Unilever and L’Oreal are using? Carbon labels are generated after a brand calculates the exact amount of carbon emitted into the environment to produce its products. That information is shared with consumers alongside standard information like ingredients lists, nutrition labels and product reviews.
Because today’s shoppers are reading labels more than ever, especially when it comes to the food and beverage category, carbon labeling can significantly influence purchasing decisions. The International Food Council found that two out of three consumers are highly motivated to purchase by what they’ve read on a product’s label. Customers who are already conditioned to read product labels will have access to carbon footprint data that demonstrates how their purchase makes a difference.
Eco-conscious brands need to meet consumers where they are by sharing valuable information with them on the labels they’re already reading. Carbon labeling allows brands to distill the many ways that they have made sustainably part of their mission. Shoppers can see, at a glance, that purchasing a carbon labeled product supports their commitment to being a green consumer.
Being part of the solution, collectively and individually
In the 1820s, Elizabeth Heyrick taught consumers that they could make a difference in the world around them by purchasing ethical goods and eschewing consumer goods companies that undermined progress. Today’s consumers are much the same as those in Elizabeth’s time. They want the goods they purchase to serve double duty, improving their own lives and the lives of others. And they aren’t afraid to walk away from brands that don’t support this mindset.
Australian consumers are especially inclined to purchase with a larger, global purpose in mind and want the brands they buy to help them do so. A recent survey sponsored by CouriersPlease, and conducted by an independent panel found that 85% of Aussie consumers want retailers and brands to provide evidence about the sustainability of their products.
That means an overwhelming majority of Australian shoppers are asking to see clear evidence of a product’s commitment to the environment. Retailers who provide this information will not only be a part of the solution, but also benefit from the ability to analyze their customers’ changing shopping behaviors. They can use these data-driven insights to provide more value to their customers with personalized recommendations to help shoppers reduce their carbon footprint further.
This approach can build stronger brand loyalty and ultimately create more sustainable shopping habits, with everyone across the supply chain doing their part. Carbon labeling not only answers the call for evidence of environmental commitment, but it does so within a label-conscious consumer’s decision-making process.
The bigger question is, where does your brand fit into this picture?
Tim Mason is CEO of Eagle Eye.