Consumers Want Sustainability. Can Companies Deliver It?
April 22, 2021
New research from GreenPrint, shows that consumers want sustainable products and would be willing to pay more for them. GreenPrint CEO Pete Davis joined the April 21 “7investing Now” to discuss his company’s “Business of Sustainability Index,” and what it means for both companies and consumers.
Some key findings include:
- 56% of Americans would use a credit card that could calculate and offset the environmental footprint of their purchases
- 64% of Americans are willing to pay more for sustainable products,
- Despite this, 74% of Americans don’t know how to identify sustainable products.
- 78% are more likely to purchase a product that is clearly labeled as environmentally friendly.
- There’s a clear break in trust between consumers and companies. 53% of Americans never or only sometimes believe companies when they make make environmentally conscious claims.
A full transcript follows the video.
Dan Kline: And welcome back. I am Dan Kline. I am being joined today by GreenPrint CEO, Pete Davis. We’re going to discuss his company’s Business of Sustainability Index, Pete, welcome to 7investing Now.
Pete Davis: Thanks, Dan. Thanks for having me.
Dan Kline: I’m excited to have you, this is a topic we’ve talked about a lot. It’s one that it’s a little bit difficult to put reality to. But Pete, why don’t you explain a little bit about what GreenPrint does before we get into your research?
Pete Davis: Yeah, sure. GreenPrint is an environmental technology company. We’re a public benefit corporation. And we provide sustainability services in 16 countries. We basically help companies, our clients develop and meet sustainability goals, while increasing brand value and customer loyalty. And so we make it easy for businesses to do well by doing good. We’re an Inc. 500 company. And we’re on track to offset about 30 million metric tons of carbon by 2025 in a couple years.
Dan Kline: And you did a really interesting survey here. So let’s let’s talk some of the highlights of your research. This shows that Americans want eco-friendly products and personal finance options, but they struggle to identify them. You found out that Americans are more willing to purchase sustainable products, when they’re able to clearly differentiate them.
You also found that a majority that was 56% would even use a credit card that could calculate and offset the environmental footprint of their purchases. Some of your other key findings were that 64% of Americans are willing to pay more for sustainable products, but 74% don’t know how to identify them. Let’s go to the first question here. Do you believe that sustainability will play an increased role in purchasing decisions?
Pete Davis: Absolutely. So we see it all day long. GreenPrint works with clients to develop these sustainability goals, communicate them clearly. And then measure the results. And we survey our clients, consumers and stakeholders, we see across the board, they’re more loyal, they’re less price sensitive. We conducted the business’s Sustainability Index to kind of look at American consumers more broadly. And we found that kind of across the board all age ranges and demographics. Sustainability is a top concern for consumers among basically every demographic profile driven by younger consumers.
Dan Kline: Is this one of those areas, though, where it’s easy to say you’ll do the right thing. But then, oh, those K-Cups are so convenient. Like, is there a bit of a disconnect between action and sort of intent?
Pete Davis: Yeah, I think certainly, it’s human nature. For people to do the right thing when it’s easy, and it’s a little bit more challenging when it’s difficult. And so it’s our job as sustainability experts to make it convenient. So do the hard work behind the scenes and make it convenient for consumers to choose the sustainable option and not ask them to change behavior too drastically.
So take take recycling as an example. 20 years ago, almost no one recycled, it was really inconvenient, right? You had to wash things out and store them and then put them in your trunk and find a recycling depot and drive to the recycling depot and almost no one did it. And today, most consumers do like 90% depending on the stats you look at, because all you have to do is find the blue bin or take out the bin with your trash can.
We see the same thing, so three out of four Millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable products. Think about the dairy case, you’re standing front of the dairy case. And most consumers today choose to pay $4 for a dozen eggs from free range, humanely treated, you know, free range chickens instead of two dollars for regular eggs, so people are willing to pay twice as much for a product and feel better about it when it’s sustainable.
Dan Kline: Is this something that’s being driven by younger consumers?
Pete Davis: Absolutely. So, you know, anecdotally, after interacting with younger consumers, it becomes pretty apparent that they’re purpose driven and focused on sustainability. The facts, support the anecdotes, and so 75% of Millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable products. And then we see 64% of Gen X and 57% of Boomers.
And so this is a nice little trend line showing that younger customers are really purpose driven. And if you want to stay relevant, with the customer, and even the employee of today, and tomorrow, you know, and you’re a business looking to attract these consumers and employees, you need to invest in sustainability and clearly communicate your plans. So you build trust with customers.
Dan Kline: As a company whose business is sustainability, how do you sort of separate optics and reality, I’ll give an example. We’ve gotten rid of plastic straws pretty much everywhere. I’m pretty sure plastic straws were not nearly the problem that plastic cups are or, you know, and I know the paper straw is a really poor substitute for the plastic straw. So those optics don’t really work for me, because as my straw is melting while I’m having my coffee, I find it really disappointing. And it’s a lot easier to carry a mug, which I can wash out in the bathroom than it is to carry a glass or a metal straw, which is difficult to to wash out.
How do you sort of balance that with the companies you work with?
Pete Davis: Yeah, I think that’s a great question. I think the the, the goal is to start and to communicate clearly and acknowledge that, you know, we as companies or as products have a footprint, and we intend to do the right thing. And we want to kind of measure our impact today and put in place plans to transition our business, our products, to the circular economy and not not get over our skis and over promise, but to clearly communicate kind of backup, what we’re doing with third party validation. So that we can build trust with customers, because that’s the most important thing.
And so we’re not going to get it right the first time. But get in the game. You know, a lot of large companies are already doing this. If you’re in the middle market, or you know, small to large company that hasn’t started yet. The goal is to start, it’s not overly complicated to kind of dive in and start building sustainability plans and goals. Just be transparent. clearly state what your goals are, communicate and realize you’re not going to get it right the first time.
Dan Kline: So one of the things your survey found was that people want personal finance products and even credit cards that lean into sustainability. I don’t even have any idea what that looks like. I pick a credit card based on rewards and interest rates. I’m not entirely sure I care if my credit card, you know, plants a tree or whatever it is. So what would that look like for consumers?
Pete Davis: Yeah, you know, it’s a, it’s a great question. And great findings, we found across the board, like 76% of Americans would switch to an eco friendly consumer products in the grocery store. 74% would switch fuels. So if a gas station offset carbon emissions on fuel, three quarters of people would switch to that brand. And we found similarly, in the credit card space, I think 71% of Millennials said that they would switch and use a carbon neutral credit card.
And I think the card space is really interesting, because it gets back to the convenience factor that you mentioned, right. So there’s a lot going on plastic straws and paper straws. And so there’s confusion in the marketplace. Consumers typically don’t trust what companies say. And I think large retailers and even credit card companies are in a unique position. They have a trusted relationship with consumers. And they’re kind of at the top of the funnel. And so they can make it convenient. And so when I go to a large retailer, you know, there are 1000s of brands that I’m buying the large retailers in position to help me weed through the clutter and figure out which brands are sustainable, and they get kind of a consistent, trusted message. And similarly, a card issuer is in a unique position, they own their relationship with me as a trusted consumer.
And while I want to be sustainable, you know, 74% of consumers say they don’t kind of believe and they don’t know how to identify sustainable products, the card issuer can help me kind of measure and identify transactions that are sustainable, and they can offset the emissions. So I know from one trusted source, all of my transactions are carbon neutral.
Dan Kline: Final question here, the companies you work with how do you build that trust? I agree, I’m pretty skeptical of most companies I deal with and I cover, you know, industries that will put up reports, we’re going to be you know, carbon neutral by 2035. Well, I’m going to be an Olympic runner by 2035, that to me is basically just kicking the can down the road. How do you counsel companies, you know, to work towards believability?
Pete Davis: Yeah, you know, I think we see a lot of goals that are out in the future. And that’s because a lot of large companies are trying to, you know, shift the cruise ship. And it takes time, I think we’d like to have kind of clearly communicated short term goals as well as long term goals, and then frequently, kind of update and benchmark those goals. So Earth Day is a perfect example. Right? It happens once a year.
It’s a great time, we work with all of our clients to communicate internally and externally, on Earth Day and other times in the year to set kind of checkpoints and benchmark their progress against their goals. We act as a third party validated, but there are others out there. And so it’s not just the company and our client, stating what they’re doing. There’s third party auditors and validators behind the scenes. There’s nonprofit organizations we and others can work with to kind of kind of bolster our claims and validate the work that we’re doing. And so there’s long term goals, hitting targets by 2030, or 2050. And in their short term kind of tactics along the way.
Dan Kline: Thank you, Pete Davis, the CEO of GreenPrint. If our viewers want to get in touch with someone at your company, how do they go about doing that?
Pete Davis: They can email us at Info@GreenPrint.eco. They can email me at Pete@GreenPrint.eco or go to our website GreenPrint.eco.
Dan Kline: Ok, we appreciate you doing this. Thank you.
Thank you, Dan.