Survey after survey confirms that consumers want to be more green in their purchasing decisions. Across various industries from electronics to consumer packaged goods as well as cosmetics, sustainability is redefining how shoppers choose the products they buy. With this historic customer shift now underway, brands are looking to provide sustainable offerings.
The survey results are unequivocal. Take, for example, a 2019 survey by Accenture. Its broad-based sample of 6,000 consumers in 11 countries determined that 83% of respondents believe that it is important or extremely important for companies to design products that are meant to be reused or recycled. Almost 72% of respondents reported currently buying more green products than they had five years earlier, and 81% said they expect to buy more over the next five years.
With increasing digitalization, the electronics industry is booming. For example, today, an estimated 5 billion people own a mobile device globally. Pew Research has also found that within the United States alone, mobile phone penetration has increased from 61% in 2002 to 94% in 2018. As they evolve with the times to remain competitive, electronics companies have been prompted to look at their sustainability efforts. From monitoring their emissions levels, switching to the use of renewable energy to evaluating their use of resources, there is an obvious shift towards giving what consumers want by being more socially responsible. A brand that has been extremely focused on their green efforts is Apple. Beyond looking at the materials that make up their products, the brand is also constantly working towards building a circular fiber packaging supply chain.
The consumer packaged goods (CPG) market also clearly reflects the rising consumer preference for green products. A 2019 Harvard Business Review article, Research: Actually, Consumers Do Buy Sustainable Products, cites an NYU study in which researchers determined that sustainability-marketed products accounted for 50% of CPG growth between 2013 and 2018. The study data came from retail barcode scans covering 36 categories and 71,000 SKUs, which collectively accounted for 40% of CPG dollar sales during the five years. One brand that made such a transition is Unilever. It has reinvented legacy products, and as a result, its “sustainable living” brands now account for 70% of its sales growth.
When it comes to determining how a customer perceives the sustainability of a product, packaging plays a crucial role. Consumers are increasingly mindful of whether packaging is recyclable or compostable or whether it must be thrown in the trash. Not surprisingly, many people are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging options. According to a Canadian study, 62% of adults would pay more for products packaged in sustainable materials. Almost two-thirds of those people would pay up to 10% more.
In the beauty and cosmetics industry, sustainable skincare, hair care, and cosmetics are fast-growing categories as the concept of clean beauty catches on. However, most beauty brands are still lagging behind on eco-friendly packaging initiatives. This becomes a major problem when the industry produces 120 billion units of packaging yearly. To enhance their image as being a truly green brand, it is imperative that beauty and cosmetics companies start addressing this important aspect of their product as well. It is then heartening that some companies are taking the lead to make a change today such as L’Oréal has done by founding SPICE, the Sustainable Packaging Initiative for CosmEtics, an initiative that brings together organizations in the cosmetics industry to work towards collectively shaping the future of sustainable packaging.
Additionally, brands also need to consider how easy it is for customers to recognize that their packaging is sustainable. Nothing is more frustrating than having a sustainable product packaged in unsustainable packaging or in packaging that customers perceive to be unsustainable. An effective way to overcome this challenge is to use molded fiber and paper packing. Many consumers instantly recognize molded fiber packaging as a sustainable choice, and as a result, molded fiber and paper products are gaining momentum as highly recyclable and/or compostable packaging materials that pose no risk of contributing to ocean plastic.
Given the growing interest in sustainable products, the willingness of many to pay more for more sustainable packaging, as well as the backlash against plastic, the clear message is that if you have not switched to a green packaging option, now is time to make that change and send a powerful message to customers about your commitment to sustainability.