From production lines and shopping carts to bold environmental statements and green certification labels, sustainability claims are everywhere. For our inaugural Canadian consumer sustainability report, we surveyed business leaders and consumers to explore how retailers can build consumer trust in their brands while navigating the dynamic world of conscious consumption.
Consumers are signalling their intentions to reward brands that deliver on sustainability promises.
The rocky post-pandemic economy has squeezed the wallets of many Canadians, who manage the rising costs of everyday purchases due to inflation by reducing their spending in discretionary categories like electronics, recreation, and restaurants. Despite the tightening, consumers are using their buying power to reward brands that deliver on sustainability promises with 62% of Canadians showing a willingness to pay a premium of 20% or more on sustainably produced goods and services.
Sustainability claims leave consumers confused, frustrated, and skeptical about their authenticity.
Consumers aren’t sure how to make sense of the surge in sustainability claims. As a result, there’s a major disconnect between how brands think their sustainable products are perceived and what consumers actually believe. Our survey suggests that many businesses are indifferent toward the risks of greenwashing, despite recent examples of companies taking reputational hits over false or misleading claims.
of consumers are skeptical about the authenticity of sustainability claims
are frustrated by the difficulty of separating authentic claims from greenwashing
won’t pay extra for sustainable products because of how difficult claims are to decode
of business leaders feel at risk of greenwashing accusations if they pursue sustainability goals
Sustainability’s true cost
Launching sustainable products successfully can often be costlier and benefits hard to measure.
Almost two-thirds of Canadian companies have considered developing sustainable products or services. However, cost has proven to be a major challenge toward these efforts. Business leaders noted that it’s difficult to engage consumers in—and communicate the benefits of—new sustainable product lines. In large part, this stems from a company’s struggle to effectively measure, evaluate, and explain what makes their sustainable products the better choice.
of consumers are more likely to purchase brands that offer green or sustainable products
of canadians say they've bought a product or service based on sustainability claims
of business leaders say there is a higher cost to sustainable product development
Products with purpose
The path to creating appealing sustainable products starts by operating with a purpose.
Consumers don’t want to be sold sustainability—they want brands to make sustainability integral to their business. Having a clear purpose that integrates sustainability can help reassure consumers that no matter what may change on the racks and shelves, they can trust the company is doing the work. By adopting sustainable practices across the entire operation, brands can generate trust, goodwill, and momentum among customers.
believe that they shouldn’t have to think about sustainability while shopping
say it’s a brand’s responsibility to create products that are not harmful to the earth
of business leaders think consumers trust their sustainability claims
The all-inclusive approach
A whole-of-enterprise approach is needed to get sustainable product creation right.
The business leaders we surveyed have begun an enterprise-wide approach to sustainable product development, breaking down traditional functional silos. The choice to develop sustainable products should be the lens through which a company innovates, sources, distributes, sells, and engages.
What do businesses depend on to validate sustainability practices?
rely on internal analysis
rely on material traceability
rely on third-party certification
Building consumer trust
Companies can foster trust through authentic messaging and transparent practices to engage consumers.
The Canadian consumer and the Consumer industry are changing with the times. To keep pace, businesses are successfully bringing more sustainable products to market and trying to articulate their positive sustainability commitments to customers. However, those same consumers are finding it confusing to navigate the abundance of claims, leading to frustration and skepticism.
When companies make it easier for consumers to make sustainable purchasing decisions, they can overcome customer cynicism and generate brand loyalty. Through a whole-of-enterprise approach to integrating sustainability across the business and its value chain, companies can build trust and lead with purpose—a choice every consumer can get behind.