Global retail analysis shows increased sales for brands with sustainability claims on packaging or active marketing of corporate social responsibility efforts
NEW YORK – June 17, 2014 – Fifty-five percent of global online consumers across 60 countries say they are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact, according to a new study by Nielsen. The propensity to buy socially responsible brands is strongest in Asia-Pacific (64%), Latin America (63%) and Middle East/Africa (63%). The numbers for North America and Europe are 42 and 40 percent, respectively.
“Consumers around the world are saying loud and clear that a brand’s social purpose is among the factors that influence purchase decisions,” said Amy Fenton, global leader of public development and sustainability, Nielsen. “This behavior is on the rise and it provides opportunities for meaningful impact in our communities, in addition to helping to grow share for brands.”
The Nielsen Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility polled 30,000 consumers in 60 countries* to understand: how passionate consumers are about sustainable practices when it comes to purchase considerations; which consumer segments are most supportive of ecological or other socially responsible efforts; and which social issues/causes are attracting the most concern.
More than half of global respondents (52%) say they have purchased at least one product or service in the past six months from a socially responsible company, with respondents in Latin America (65%), Asia-Pacific (59%) and Middle East/Africa (59%) exceeding the global average. Four in 10 respondents in North America and Europe say they have made a sustainable purchase in the past six months.
Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility Efforts Can Boost the Bottom Line
Finding consumers around the world who say they care about the environment or extreme poverty is relatively easy. But does care about issues convert to action when it comes to buying decisions?
Some fifty-two percent of global respondents in Nielsen’s survey say their purchase decisions are partly dependent on the packaging – they check the labeling first before buying to ensure the brand is committed to positive social and environmental impact. Sustainable purchase considerations are most influenced by the packaging in Asia-Pacific (63%), Latin America (62%) and Middle East/Africa (62%) and to a lesser extent in Europe (36%) and North America (32%).
To determine if the sentiments expressed by respondents are supported by actual retail performance, Nielsen also reviewed retail sales data for a cross-section of both consumable and non-consumable categories across 20 brands in nine countries. These brands either included sustainability claims on packaging or actively promoted their sustainability actions through marketing efforts. The results from a March 2014 year-over-year analysis show an average annual sales increase of two percent for products with sustainability claims on the packaging and a lift of five percent for products that promoted sustainability actions through marketing programs. A review of 14 other brands without sustainability claims or marketing shows a sales rise of only one percent.
The “Sustainable Mainstream”
In an effort to separate the passive eco-friendly consumer from the passionate, Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), a Nielsen strategic business collaborator, conducted a nine-country online study to understand how global attitudes and behaviors about sustainability engagement are changing. Consumers were clustered into five segments to quantify what attracts them to sustainability actions.
The findings reveal that two-thirds of the “sustainable mainstream” population (a cluster of three of the five segments) will choose products from sustainable sources over other conventional products. These consumers will buy as many eco-friendly products as they can and have personally changed their behavior to minimize their impact on global climate change. Additionally, these consumers are more likely to buy products repeatedly from a company if they know the company is mindful of its impact on the environment and society.
Millennials (age 21-34) appear more responsive to sustainability actions. Among global respondents in Nielsen’s survey who are responsive to sustainability actions, half are Millennials; they represent 51 percent of those who will pay extra for sustainable products and 51 percent of those who check the packaging for sustainable labeling.
Regionally, there are wide gaps between younger and older respondents in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East/Africa regions. In these largely developing regions, Millennial respondents in favor of sustainability actions are three times more agreeable, on average, to sustainability actions than Generation X (age 35-49) respondents and 12 times more agreeable, on average, than Baby Boomer (age 50-64) respondents.
Said Fenton, “It’s no longer a question if consumers care about social impact. Consumers do care and show they do through their actions. Now the focus is on determining how your brand can effectively create shared value by marrying the appropriate social cause and consumer segments.”
*Note: The findings in this survey are based on respondents with online access in 60 countries. While an online survey methodology allows for tremendous scale and global reach, it provides a perspective only on the habits of existing Internet users, not total populations. In developing markets where online penetration is still growing, audiences may be younger and more affluent than the general population of that country. In addition, survey responses are based on claimed behavior rather than actual metered data.
The Nielsen Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility was conducted between Feb. 17 and March 7, 2014, and polled more than 30,000 consumers in 60 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America. The sample has quotas based on age and sex for each country based on its Internet users, and is weighted to be representative of Internet consumers. It has a margin of error of ±0.6 percent. This Nielsen survey is based only on the behavior of respondents with online access. Internet penetration rates vary by country. Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60 percent Internet penetration or an online population of 10 million for survey inclusion. The Nielsen Global Survey, which includes the Global Consumer Confidence Index, was established in 2005.
The findings from the retail sales information included in the report are collected from stores using electronic point-of-sale technology and/or teams of local field auditors. The data represents a cross-section of both consumable and non-consumable categories across 34 brands in nine countries for the year ending March 2014. The nine countries include: Canada, France, Hungary, Netherlands, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, and the U.K. Stores within Nielsen’s worldwide retail network include grocery, drug, convenience and discount retailers, who, through various cooperation arrangements, share their sales data with Nielsen.
The findings from the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) study included in the report are based on an online survey conducted June 2013 in nine countries: Brazil, China, India, South Africa, Germany, Japan, Russia, U.K. and the U.S. Data was collected from approximately 1,000 respondents in each country, with the exception of India and South Africa, which included 1,500 respondents. The data was weighted to represent the age and gender of each country.
Nielsen N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit www.nielsen.com.
Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) is an international strategic consulting and market research company specializing in health & wellness, sustainability and healthy aging. As a leading business consulting and market research firm, NMI assists a range of Fortune 500 and start-up companies across many types of industries. By utilizing a diverse mix of proprietary methodologies and comprehensive syndicated data, NMI provides its clients with insightful market analysis and strategic planning. For more information, visit www.NMIsolutions.com.
Anne-Taylor Adams, 646.654.5759, firstname.lastname@example.org