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Rise of the ethically minded consumer

23 June 2022 7 min read

Brands are being held accountable for sustainable practices and their impact on the environment, society, and economically. As such, they are uniquely poised to drive change.

According to Forbes, Millennials and Generation Z consumers are driving 85% of global luxury sales growth, because they care about purchasing quality and supporting brands that address sustainability. Add to these, a survey by Nielson conducted this year, found 73% of Millennials are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable or socially-conscious brand; and 81% of them expect the brands that they buy into be transparent in their marketing and actively talk about their sustainability impacts.

And consumers are primed to pay a premium for a meaningful experience. High quality products, craftsmanship, and services are increasingly synonymous with sustainability.

Specifically in Singapore, an online mindset study of 500 consumers published by WWF Asia in 2021, distributed across age, gender, and income groups, was conducted to understand what drives consumer purchasing decisions. The survey uncovered what consumers expect from companies and the government.

Responses were supplemented with a social media exercise that spanned over 47,000 conversations with over 12,000 people. 23 companies, from small and medium enterprises to multinational corporations and national majors, across the retail, food and beverage, fast-moving consumer goods, banking, real estate, agriculture, and other sectors were interviewed.

Information and impact

Firstly, the findings concluded Singapore consumers want to understand how they can be more sustainable in their everyday actions and purchasing decisions. They seek information on what changes they can make in their daily lives, the bigger impacts of their individual choices, and how their efforts advance Singapore’s national sustainability ambitions.

Choice and knowledge

In fact, 75% of those interviewed want to behave more sustainably, but they worry that they lack avenues and options to do so. 29% would buy more sustainable products if they had more information about their purchases’ impact on sustainability.

Enhanced value

Singapore consumers are eager to take action for the environment by making more sustainable purchases. They want a better overall value proposition from ingredients used, components and packaging with low carbon footprints, to better performance, and greener last mile delivery. Many reported that eco-friendly goods and services are difficult to find, lacking in variety, and deliver poor value.

Extending lifespans

Finally, the research found that there are specific keywords that consumers would associate with sustainability and quality. Durability, reusability, and recyclability are three watchwords for consumers. Many associated sustainability with hardy, long-lasting products, stressing the need for more avenues to give their items a second life or to dispose them sustainably.

Time to act

In response to these findings, Singapore businesses can take initiative in driving sustainability across their operations by expressing it through the brand. Consumers expect brands to engage with what they care about. There are three initiatives that brands can action on.

1. Enhanced Value Propositions
  • Create more and improved sustainable products and alternatives, such as reusable e-commerce package, refillable packaging systems, and green investment products.
  • Make these sustainable options more accessible through wider distribution channels and better product placement.
  • Offer incentives to purchase them, such as discounts and loyalty points for refill packs, and for other sustainable behaviour, such as using reusable shopping bags.
2. Increased Awareness and Trust
  • Adopt credible certification standards such as the FSC and ASC, working with the government and independent organisations on easily recognisable sustainability logos and labels, QR codes for traceability, and better product information.
  • Provide consumers with channels for continuous feedback, take action, and share efforts and results internally and externally.
  • Spread awareness of avenues for sustainable action, such as ways to recycle products correctly or dispose of them sustainably and illuminate the importance of their contributions.
3. Extended Product Lifespans
  • Create more points and methods for recycling or sustainable disposal, such as reverse vending machine and in-store recycling bins.
  • Enable a second life for products through different means including setting up platforms for consumers to rent the items, swap and trade pre-loved and refurbished items, or up-cycling schemes.
  • Collaborate with e-commerce platforms to minimise single-use packaging and manage the post-use life of products sustainably.

These are merely a few of many innovative ways that brands can act on to begin their sustainability journey. However, it begins at the core of their business, starting with developing their brand purpose and crafting a branding strategy to communicate their sustainable brand dedication.

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