With a huge number of options in each product category, how can the consumer distinguish which are the most sustainable?
For this, it is necessary that they have access to clear, reliable, relevant and transparent information. And the importance of these adjectives should not be underestimated.
Informing the sustainability attributes of products guaranteeing these qualities is essential to build a communication capable of guiding the consumer’s decision-making, without the risk of greenwashing. And this is one of the great challenges facing companies today.
Although the volume of information on the sustainability attributes of products is increasing, as well as on the actions of companies to reduce the negative impacts caused in their production chain, such information is not always correctly understood by the consumer, given the way in which it is communicated in the label or on the product packaging or on the website or on the brand’s social networks.
There is evidence to show how far this communication needs to go. The Akatu 2018 Survey shows that for 60% of consumers the biggest barrier to adopting sustainable practices is the need for some kind of effort. Within it, the biggest obstacle is the cost of the product, the second is the lack of information about the environmental and social impacts and the third is the unavailability of products.
These obstacles may be showing that consumers do not see, in product communication, clear and reliable indications that sustainability attributes are indeed present.
However, according to the Healthy and Sustainable Living 2020 Survey, the percentage of consumers who are willing to pay more for products that improve society and the environment grew from 54% in 2019 to 63% in 2020. indicates that price is not necessarily a barrier to purchasing the most sustainable product, as long as its sustainability attributes are identified.
If there is no clear identification that the product is responsible for this attribute, there is a communication problem. Likewise, the two obstacles, the lack of information on the environmental and social impacts and the unavailability of products, directly show that the most sustainable products are difficult to be identified by the consumer.
Thus, inadequate communication hinders the consumer in his decision to purchase a more sustainable product at the expense of a less sustainable one.
By the way, it is worth remembering that the term “sustainability” itself needs to be better understood by most Brazilian consumers. In the Akatu 2018 Survey, 68% of respondents said they had already heard about sustainability, but among these, 61% could not say what a sustainable product is.
Focusing on the essential qualities of communicating the sustainability attributes of products, the first is clarity, which means adopting an everyday, easy-to-understand language that informs the direct relationship between the sustainability attribute and the product itself.
The second quality, of relevance, means focusing on sustainability attributes that actually represent a genuine and differentiated benefit of the product in relation to the environment and society, beyond what is required by law.
Reliability, on the other hand, means providing accurate, grounded, robust and consistent information and data, with attributes preferably attested by a third-party audit certification. If self-declared, the attributes must be capable of being attested by an independent and credible third party.
As for being transparent, it’s about pointing out ways for the consumer to track and learn more about the methods and processes behind the allegations made, if he so wishes.
And finally, it is still necessary to consider accessibility, that is, to ensure that information and data about product attributes reach the consumer visibly on the label, packaging, website or other channel used for communication.
In recent years, I have been more dedicated to the topic of communicating the sustainability attributes of products, as I understand that good communication is capable of encouraging the practice of conscious consumption. From what was described above, I believe that there is a lot to go forward.
For this reason, Akatu has been working in partnership with UNEP (United Nations Program for the Environment) in the dissemination and application of the Guidelines for the Provision of Information on the Sustainability Attributes of Products and Services, developed in 2017 by UNEP and the International Trade Centre, within the scope of the One Planet Network Consumer Information Program (CI-SCP), of which Akatu is a member of the Advisory Board.
These Guidelines serve as a global guide that guides companies in their claims to the environmental, social and economic attributes of any type of product. Divided into ten principles, they list as “fundamental” precisely the five treated in this column and present another five as “aspirational”, complementary steps to obtain good communication.
The application of the principles of the Guidelines by companies in their communication enables the empowerment of consumers and creates conditions for them to recognize the value of more sustainable products.
And it is a powerful tool to create a bond between the brand and the consumer, since, according to the Healthy and Sustainable Living 2019 Survey, 83% of Brazilian consumers say that having a positive impact on their community or on the world is an influencing factor. your loyalty to a brand. And which company doesn’t want to have such loyalty from its customers?
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