Brand owners embrace sustainability

25 May 2012

LONDON: Brand owners around the world are putting an increased emphasis on sustainability, a trend covering areas from corporate strategising to new product development and marketing.

Accenture, the consultancy, polled 250 executives, some 44% of which agreed sustainability was "critical" to their business. A further 48% said the issue was "very important" and 7% described it as "somewhat" so.

Looking ahead, 78% of the panel viewed this subject as "vital" to future growth. Figures here hit 91% in emerging markets, 77% for the US, 73% across Europe, and 63% among Japanese respondents.

When considering the factors stimulating action in this space, 62% of contributors pointed to consumer and customer expectations, and 23% reported this constituted the "single most important" prompt.

These totals stood at 60% and 16% respectively for fuelling growth, alongside reaching 52% and 17% regarding a "genuine concern for the environment".

Enhancing brand, reputation and trust scores logged 51% and 9% on these successive metrics, while the related objective of achieving competitive differentiation yielded 48% and 10%.

Among the sustainability-led investments being made to encourage growth, 60% of firms were entering new markets and 54% were developing products linked to existing sources of revenue.

Elsewhere, 49% were exploiting revenue streams in fields they already traded in, and 48% were running marketing campaigns targeted at customers known to be engaged with ecological, and similar, matters.

For 60% of interviewees, it was viable to command a price premium for green goods, a rating peaking at 70% in emerging markets, 67% in the US, 56% in Europe and just 36% in Japan.

Two-thirds of the sample believed it was possible to charge between 5% and 20% more for these items. Nearly a fifth of participants pegged this increment in the 20% to 50% range.

Despite the fact most firms set higher prices, a 37% share stated they could not keep up with demand for sustainable goods and services.

In meeting this rising interest, 44% of organisations have promoted their ecological credentials, 43% rolled out new products and 41% conducted supply chain assessments.

"Businesses will have to look beyond adapted or customised products, short runs and premium pricing," said Bruno Berthon, managing director, sustainability services, at Accenture.

"Now is the time to get closer to consumers, embed sustainability early in the innovation and design process and put in place the operational capabilities to meet market demand at scale and profitably."

Data sourced from Accenture; additional content by Warc staff