Consumers don’t trust companies when it comes to sustainability…And here’s what to do about it.
If you’ve been following our conversations around sustainability in the last few months (or years, really), you’ve heard us talk at length about the importance of transparency and authenticity. But when our latest research revealed that roughly half of consumers (51%) think that companies are not necessarily transparent about what they are doing for the climate, something clearly isn’t working.
Our recently published study, Sustainability 2023: Making Things Personal, offers a comprehensive consumer perspective on key issues, motivations and tensions associated with the evolution of sustainability in the US. One of the biggest takeaways? Being transparent may no longer be enough.
Of over 2,000 respondents in the study, fewer than 1 in 10 said they trust companies as an accurate source of information on sustainability. This indicates a real need for companies to pivot their communication practices and strategies. While being transparent can help consumers verify attributes that matter to them (like product quality, ethical sourcing or reduced environmental impact), it’s not enough to establish long-term trust.
So, how can food and beverage companies go about building trust?
First and foremost, relevancy is critical. How do your sustainability practices relate to your company’s DNA? Our CEO, Laurie, explained it well in a recent podcast episode: if you are a small, “dyed-in-the-wool” organic company, focusing on regenerative agriculture and crop rotation makes sense to your target consumer. But if you are a large corporation, providing safe working conditions and equitable wages or farming in harmony with nature will offer a more authentic impact.
Further, consider how it looks to consumers if you’re touting carbon emissions reductions in your marketing campaigns, while also turning a blind eye to your organization’s subpar labor practices behind the scenes. Today’s consumer is smart and resourceful —they are getting better at seeing through marketing speak, which is why greenwashing has become such a prevalent concern.
Ultimately, the key to building consumer trust is taking a holistic approach. No, we aren’t saying you need to be perfect or “fix” everything all at once — that’s not realistic for anyone. Showing the public what changes you have made that are relevant to your company’s category, size and position in the marketplace, while also acknowledging areas that need improvement and your plans to resolve those, can be a big step in the right direction.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: sustainability is not a fad. In 2023 and beyond, food and beverage companies need a comprehensive, consumer-oriented strategy to avoid missteps and remain relevant. There’s a lot of data out there, but Sustainability 2023: Making Things Personal helps you make sense of it all. Most importantly, it applies those insights directly to your business.
Connect with our team to learn more about the study and uncover answers to your burning questions today.