Do consumers care about sustainability?


June 21, 2023

The world is going greener, but how important is it for your customers?

There was a time when sustainability was seen as little more than a buzzword. In some quarters, issues like transparency and eco-credentials were treated as marketing ploys and little else. However, recent years have seen the conversation around sustainability evolve considerably.  

For brands, manufacturers, and retailers, talk about sustainability is increasingly becoming action on sustainability. New initiatives like the European Union’s digital product passport are taking shape. But as data transparency and product circularity become increasingly critical in both B2B and B2C spaces, one question remains: do consumers really care about sustainability? Let’s take a closer look.  

Are your products ready to go circular?

Read the latest inriver ebook “The Circular Product Journey” to find out.

The size of the sustainability market 

It doesn’t matter what they’re buying, sustainability is becoming a key issue for consumers around the world. A recent inriver e-commerce study, Inside the Mind of an Online Shopper, looked at sustainability preferences for consumers aged between 16 and 44. The study revealed sustainability is key in decision-making for a majority of UK (69%) and German (71%) consumers – and growing in importance across the US.  

In fact, more consumers than ever before are demanding that brands operate in a sustainable and transparent way. In response, global inriver brands like New Balance, Akzo Nobel, and Victorinox, are proactive about publicizing their commitments to sustainability. Transparency around how sustainable products are made, shipped, and sold is now the difference between a new customer and a lost sale.  

And yet, despite all this compelling data, some executives still don’t know what customers value most. A Forbes survey revealed 100% of surveyed retailers believe consumers rank brand name higher than sustainability credentials. This goes against data from the same survey that shows just 56% said brand name was ‘somewhat’ or ‘very important’ to their purchase decisions. Executives need to quickly understand the importance of sustainability. Otherwise, they will fail to take advantage of the ever-growing market for eco-friendly products and processes. 

engineers in high visibility vests at the base of a windmill

Closing the sustainability trust gap 

Sustainability is one of the most influential issues of our time. Therefore, it’s understandable that companies are rushing to be part of the conversation – and meeting the demands of their customers. According to the same Forbes study, consumers from all generations are willing to pay a little extra for sustainable products. This sentiment is growing in every generational cohort. For example, from 2019 to 2022, the percentage of Gen X customers who would pay a 10% premium for sustainable products rose from 34% to 90%

Yet even with a voracious appetite to support planet-friendly brands, just 28% of US and 30% of European adults believe they can trust companies who promise climate action. Consumers are skeptical of sustainability claims, perhaps for good reason. 68% of US executives admit their company is guilty of greenwashing – exaggerating or misrepresenting the positive environmental impact of their actions. This makes it hard for buyers to believe what they’re reading. 

Unlike marketing campaigns or new product designs, genuine sustainability progress rarely happens overnight. So how can companies showcase their eco-credentials and set themselves apart from the competition? 

The power of sustainability-focused product information 

Putting sustainability data right where your customers can access it can help you leverage the work you’re doing. Research suggests 69% of consumers are more likely to buy products if they’re accompanied by clear sustainability information. 

This starts with understanding your product information. Brands need to provide detailed sustainability information about how a product is made and where materials are sourced. They also need to provide information on other eco-practices, like shipping, to inform buyers. Stating that a product is packaged with 100% recycled cardboard could be the data that seals the deal. The same is true if a product is plastic-free or ethically sourced. 

Businesses can also discourage frustrating shopping habits, such as product returns, by providing the right product information. By helping consumers make more informed buying decisions, you help reduce product returns, cut the money and resources spent on your returns processes, and help your carbon footprint. 

Satisfying sustainability regulators 

Making sustainability data more visible isn’t just about keeping customers happy. As the EU’s digital product passports (DPP) looms on the horizon, many countries and regions are introducing regulatory requirements that require sustainability data to be readily available.  

For example, France’s anti-waste law of 2020 goes after brands that build products for planned obsolescence and aims to help consumers access better and more transparent information about what they’re buying. The country has also introduced its repairability index, helping customers make buying decisions based on how repairable a product is. 

female driver waiting for her electric car to charge

Managing your sustainability data 

It’s hard to be transparent with your sustainability data if you don’t have it stored, managed, and easily accessible for all internal teams and external audiences. While some companies store information in siloed databases which makes it hard to share the relevant information, others are integrating PIM software that centralizes their product data for easy access. 

However, an off-the-shelf PIM solution can’t meet the growing demands for sustainability data. That’s why so many brands are moving over to inriver’s PIM platform. The most complete PIM software on the market is perfectly positioned to support brands looking to revolutionize their sustainability output.  

Want to know more about how the inriver platform can turbo-boost your sustainability credentials while powering better omnichannel experiences? Book a personalized demo with an inriver expert today and see how easy it is for your company to become a sustainability leader.

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  • Brooke Cunningham

    Chief Marketing Officer

    As Chief Marketing Officer, Brooke is responsible for inriver's end-to-end marketing strategy.

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