Consumers See — And Are Willing To Pay For — The Added Value Of Sustainability
Updated: Aug 4, 2022
Our Life Renewed research identified a shift in mindset: consumers are willing to pay more for products that are made sustainably and ethically.
Sustainability has been a focus for quite some time, but in this post-pandemic world, it has become at the forefront of consumers' minds as we discovered during our Life Renewed global trek. Before the pandemic, sustainability was more of an aspirational goal that consumers looked to improve on, but it was ultimately a matter of convenience and therefore not fully reflected in their spending habits. Now, it has become a top-of-mind concern for consumers and is driving shifts in their behaviors in their everyday lives.
Innovation Worth Paying for
Sustainability has become something that consumers are willing to spend on. In the past, sustainable products were considered to be of lesser quality and so they were expected to be a cheaper solution. Now, there has been a shift in consumers' mindsets: consumers recognize that these products come with an added cost, such as more complex materials, sustainable production fees, or throughout the trickier innovation process. Expensive sustainable products that highlight these pricier features are on the forefront of trends right now.
Car brands like Tesla highlight innovation through an electric car revolution, and clothing stores such as Reformation are transparent about their environmental footprint by sending out sustainability reports quarterly, using sustainable manufacturing processes, dyes and packaging, and making commitments to be carbon neutral. Other boutique shops like the towel brand Sand Cloud are made with sustainable products like Turkish cotton and make a point of donating 10% of all profits toward marine conservation.
Sustainable products have taken on a new identity in consumers’ eyes and have reshaped the meaning of sustainable shopping. Consumers are now willing to spend that bit extra because they see that being a sustainable brand costs more. According to Simon-Kucher + Partners, sustainability is rated as an important purchase criterion for 60% of consumers worldwide, and one-third of consumers are willing to pay a premium for sustainable products (42% in the U.S.). As Penelope, 20, France, said, “I am willing to pay more for things that are better quality or made ethically.” If one didn't have money or time before the pandemic, making sustainable choices could be a hassle, but as concern over the environment has only grown, people are going out of their way and spending to be more sustainable.
Recommendation For Brands:
These trends mean a lot for brands as consumers shift their spending habits. When brands can demonstrate investment and value in their sustainable efforts, they can charge that extra bit in cost for sustainable products. Consumers will pay more, regardless of luxury status, for items that are sustainably and ethically made. Companies should prepare for sustainability to become the expectation for the future. Highlighting the instances in which a brand is dedicated to sustainability will boost the brand's character and help improve sales because there's a recognition that it takes investment and new ideas to create sustainable products.
Emerging Sustainability Efforts
Brands are also changing what it means to be sustainable and finding creative and innovative solutions to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability in how they function and operate. There are three main ways that brands are integrating these sustainable efforts that consumers are taking note of.
Sourcing Materials: Brands are shifting their sourcing to local producers as a commitment to helping local businesses and making an effort to be more sustainable. This also reduces their footprint because materials don’t need to be transported as far. There is also a shift toward renewable or reclaimed materials (e.g., using bamboo or salvaged wood to make furniture products).
Reducing Inputs: Many brands are working to reduce the use of resources in the production process. Brands can demonstrate to consumers that they do not overuse natural resources to make their products and make them sustainably and equitably. This can include using less water, less raw materials, and less energy in production.
Disrupting the Consumption Cycle: The third way brands can help to be more sustainable is by disrupting the consumption cycle and reducing landfill waste. An example is the Coach (Re-Loved) campaign, where they restore and recycle old coach bags and make them into trendy, sustainable, refurbished pieces. Forbes states, "a growing consciousness about the environment paired with an intensifying desire to participate in community causes is rapidly filtering into empowered consumers buying decisions.” As a result, consumers are increasingly wanting to see a sustainable focus in brands' production and product cycle.
Recommendations For Brands:
Brands need to consider practices to see how they can set lofty goals to be more sustainable in a variety of ways. Sourcing, producing, or helping consumers ensure their products don't end up in landfills are great way to help gain consumers' respect and trust and help the environment in the process. A recent Forrester study highlighted that shoppers seek companies whose manufacturing and supply chain practices and values align with sustainability. This extra effort will boost consumer interest and help them feel better about buying from a brand. Being thoughtful about these commitments and demonstrating their value will provide a leg up to these brands now and in the future.
The Future Of Sustainability
It is no longer an option for brands to engage in sustainable practices; it is an expectation that brands will continue to further their implementation. For consumers, this has become a front-of-mind issue, and they are setting their own goals to be more sustainable—and they are looking for brands that can help them achieve their goals. From reducing their carbon footprint to producing less waste, there are many ways consumers are being sustainable. During the pandemic, people recognized that they can achieve these small efforts independently, and now they are ready to embrace bigger sustainable goals with the help of brands that are not only participating in sustainability but leading next-level change.