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SE Asians reward 'responsible' brands

News, 14 October 2015

MANILA/HANOI: Consumers in Southeast Asia are more willing than their counterparts in other world regions to pay extra for socially responsible brands, a new global study has found.

According to the 2015 Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report, a survey of 30,000 consumers across 60 countries, 80% of consumers in Southeast Asia said they prefer to buy socially responsible or sustainably sourced brands.

This sentiment was significantly higher than in Europe (51%) and North America (44%), and moderately more than in Middle East/Africa (75%) and Latin America (71%), Marketing Interactive reported.

Vietnamese and Filipino consumers were the most engaged in Southeast Asia, with 86% of respondents in Vietnam and 83% in the Philippines willing to pay extra from brands committed to social and environmental best practice (up 12 points and 4 points respectively).

However, all emerging economies across the region saw increases in positive sentiment towards social and environmental responsibility compared to last year.

Indonesia recorded the largest jump, up 14% in just one year to 78%, while a full 79% of Thai consumers said they would pay more compared with 71% in 2014.

Singapore, the most advanced economy in the sample, had just over half (55%) of its consumers willing to pay more for sustainably sourced products.

A greater understanding of nutrition and food safety also drives purchase decisions, the survey revealed, because Southeast Asians are concerned about product traceability and understanding what they consume.

79% of Filipinos surveyed and 77% of Vietnamese considered health benefits and fresh or organic production to be major purchase drivers.

Connie Cheng, head of shopper insights for Nielsen in Southeast Asia, North Asia and Pacific, warned brands that overlook sustainability that they run the risk of damaging their reputation.

"It leaves them vulnerable to competitors of all sizes who will seize the opportunity to build trust with the predominantly young, socially-conscious consumers looking for products that align with their values," she said.

Southeast Asians are also weighing the cost of growing industrialisation, including the environmental impact of deforestation and pollution, prompting 57% to cite a brand's environmental credentials as a purchase motivator.

For Unilever, the benefits of a sustainable brand are clear, according to Keith Weed, the FMCG firm's chief marketing and communications officer.

"You can't have marketing in one corner 'selling more stuff' and sustainability in another trying to save the world," he said in comments to Fast Company.

"Bring them together because they are two sides of the same coin. Let's try and do marketing in such a way that we are addressing real social challenges," he urged.

Data sourced from Marketing Interactive, Nielsen, Fast Company; additional content by Warc staff