Bellevue, WA — Although 84 percent of U.S. consumers say they weigh sustainability in their buying decisions, their willingness is offset by lack of consensus about the concept and how it aligns with their personal values, research from The Hartman Group, Inc. suggests.
While 14 percent of consumers say they are intensely involved in sustainability, another 66 percent consider sustainability in varying degrees when making purchases, depending on the degree of personal benefit and validation perceived in sustainability, according to the research. For example, the desirability of environmentally friendly packaging is tempered by its convenience, Hartman reports.
Another 20 percent of consumers say that while sustainability is seldom top of mind, it is part of their overall value system.
Consumers who value sustainability tend to shop more often in more channels, make more visits to local and specialty merchants, and prefer to support companies with sustainable practices, according to Hartman. Similarly, global research by The Nielsen Company published in August reported 44 percent of survey respondents in the U.S. were willing to pay more for goods and services from socially responsible companies.
However, both reports note that many consumers have trouble identifying companies that act sustainably and tend not to acknowledge the efforts of those that do. Their confusion is exacerbated by a lack of clarity on what sustainability means. Hartman analysts note 52 percent of consumers equate the concept with its literal definition, “the ability to last over time,” rather than with recycling, natural resource conservation, reducing the carbon footprint, responsible farming or environmental stewardship. Compared with 2010, fewer consumers in 2013 could connect specific practices with the concept of sustainability.
Overall, research suggests that consumers who are more attuned to corporate sustainability and social responsibility are willing to support those companies with their business — as long as they can experience the benefits in a personal way. Hartman analysts advise companies to clearly articulate their values and how their products will make a difference without preaching or attempting to educate.
Although 84 percent of U.S. consumers say they weigh sustainability in their buying decisions, their willingness is offset by lack of consensus about the concept and how it aligns with their personal values.