New research provides insight on consumers' view of sustainable products

CHICAGO, and COLLINGSWOOD, N.J. — A universal product sustainability score would influence the brand purchase decisions of health and eco-conscious consumers, according to new research from Ryan Partnership Chicago and Mambo Sprouts Marketing.

In their One Green Score for One Earth sustainability research white paper — the first in a series on sustainability that reveals the results of a quantitative consumer survey and qualitative point of view interviews among retailers and manufacturers — the companies found that shoppers may increase their sustainable product spending only if they could determine which products were "truly green." What's more, customers also are perceptive of what makes a product sustainable.

Additional highlights of the survey include:

  • Among shoppers, the vast majority (8-in-10 or more) want a product sustainability score. Even the majority (55%) of those who are not committed to buying sustainably would welcome such a score;

  • Three-in-4 consumers said a numerical score would be most useful in communicating sustainability. Symbols and text were less popular, favored by just more than 25%;

  • While a single score would seem simple and clear, shoppers understand that sustainability is complex and are open to the idea of multiple scores to improve the quality of communication;

  • At least 3-in-4 consumers looked for an independent organization or group of experts across different areas of sustainability (without a profit motive) to create the score; and

  • More than half of shoppers prefer that sustainability information be displayed within the store: packaging, labels and signage.

"We know that consumer commitment to earth-friendly products is increasing," Ryan Partnership Chicago president Christine Nardi Diette said. "But all of the green messaging is creating more confusion than confidence. Consumers are challenging manufacturers and retailers to be clear about their commitment to sustainability."

Mambo Sprouts Marketing CEO Matthew Saline said, "While consumers remain focused on a product's environmental impact (e.g., energy conservation and carbon footprint), increasingly social, eco-economy and other facets of corporate responsibility are being considered including Fair Trade, cruelty-free and locally sourced."

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