The brand perception and reputation of the company is the most common reason for investing in sustainability according to Euromonitor’s Voice of the Industry survey. But what happens to this motivator during a pandemic, when values and priorities shift? Sustainability strategies need an update to align with the social priority in the new normal.
This report comes in PPT.
While the share of consumers worried about climate change grew in 2021 and 2022, COVID-19 replaced climate change as the immediate societal concern during the pandemic. Popularity of activities such as recycling and reducing food waste has plummeted and the willingness to pay more for products with specific environmental claims such as non-GMO has decreased significantly. Meanwhile the share of consumers willing to pay more for foods with vaguer and more holistic claims such as sustainably produced or eco-friendly has increased.
COVID-19 put a spotlight on companies’ treatment of employees and this people-centred priority order has affected the way consumers perceive sustainability. The data in 2022 confirm a long-term priority shift from green to social that was first noted in 2021. As a result, “supports local communities” was the food and drink claim with the fastest growing influence.
17% of global consumers are willing to pay more for environmentally-conscious or eco-friendly food and drinks. These consumers have continued donating to charities and prioritising sustainable food and drink during the pandemic. Willingness to pay a sustainability premium increases with income, signalling that the high-income premium-paying consumer segment remains willing to give and pay sustainability premiums - even during economic downturns.
Without throwing out progress made in environmental sustainability performance, companies need to align sustainability priorities with the shifting priorities among purpose-driven consumers, from green to social. The boom in influence of social product features such as “supports local communities” opens a new avenue for exploring ways to measure, certify and communicate these values.
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