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Sustainability is a long-term growth opportunity with consumers

Save the planet graffiti on wall

By 2021, shoppers in the U.S. alone will spend up to $150 billion on sustainable products, representing a quarter of all goods sold. Between 2017 and 2018, sales of sustainable products grew by almost 6 percent, higher than their non-sustainable competitors.

Across industries such as media, advertising, retail and consumer packaged goods, sustainability is no longer a siloed conversation as consumers grow their voice and demonstrate their purchasing power.

Brands are actively building consumer demand for social and environmental action into their long-term plans for innovation and production and into how they engage with consumers post-consumption. Gone are the days when sustainability was a passing trend or relevant for only a certain customer profile.

Today the sustainable consumer isn’t one type of person but a collection of people from all walks of life interested in — and actively committed to — a wide range of social and environmental issues.

"Brands are actively building consumer demand for social and environmental action into their long-term plans."

Sustainability in high demand 

Our recent report highlighting the Evolution of the Sustainability Mindset shows that corporate sustainability is in high demand across genders and generations. Consumers are looking beyond a brand’s marketing to understand companies’ true commitment to the spectrum of what sustainability means today.

Looking beyond the label to research a company’s track record with sustainability isn’t where this interest in sustainability stops for consumers; 73 percent of global shoppers tell us they would change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment — of course this includes how they make everyday purchasing decisions. 

Globally, 85 percent of millennials and 79 percent of Generation X say that it’s very important for companies to implement programs that improve the environment. But it’s not just “green” issues that consumers care about.

Sustainability encompasses a huge range of different areas across the environmental, social and governance landscape — everything from social responsibility claims and attributes such as fair trade and fair wages to environmental issues such as sustainable farming and resource management to the treatment of animals used to make products.

"Sustainability encompasses a huge range of different areas across the environmental, social and governance landscape."

 Five strategic steps

Effectively engaging the sustainability-minded consumer while opening up new opportunities for a company and its brands across the board requires tailored data to tap into areas of growth that could otherwise go unnoticed.

As the collective understanding of sustainability grows — and consumers demand action from their preferred brands on social and environmental issues in their communities and broader world — how can companies engage authentically?

Using data as our starting point, here are five strategic steps companies and brands across industries can take when it comes to sustainability:

  1. Find new sustainability opportunities through your everyday analytics.
  2. Focus on the forces of change that affect us all — governmental, grassroots and corporate to discover what matters most for your company or brand.
  3. Understand how your brand can engage consumers’ interest in “Healthy for Me & Healthy for We” through your most unique assets.
  4. Consider the full end-to-end sustainability across your company’s entire value chain.
  5. Authenticate your efforts across all the ways you engage with consumers by creating a data-fueled feedback loop.

Consumption has become a social and environmental issue. Aligning on the right corporate sustainability approach with strategic outreach can pay off for brands for many years ahead.

This article first appeared on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's blog and was republished with permission. 

Editor's Note: Julia Wilson and UPS Director of Global Sustainability Patrick Browne will speak at the Fifth Annual Sustainability and Circular Economy Summit. Click here to learn more.

[Image: Claudio Schwarz/Unsplash]

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