From the earliest days of the pandemic, consumers around the world have said they plan to make more sustainable choices about how they spend their time and money once the crisis feels over. Global consumer sentiment on this point remains solid.
In fact, this could be the year in which the political, social, corporate and consumer agendas on a full range of sustainability issues – from climate change to poverty and social justice – come into alignment. The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) is due this November and we know from our work with global corporations that sustainability is now a central boardroom concern.
The CEO Imperative Series addresses critical issues and actions to help CEOs reframe the future of their organizations. Here, we’ll outline consumers’ changing expectations of brands and the companies behind them with regards to sustainability, and how CEOs can address them.
Can you finally close the intention gap?
The latest edition of the EY Future Consumer Index suggests 43% of global consumers want to buy more from organizations that benefit society, even if their products or services cost more. And 64% are prepared to behave differently if it benefits society.
Consumers often say they will pay more for sustainable products and services, but then don’t support that intention with action. As the world slowly emerges from the pandemic, there are signs this gap will close. That would create a major growth opportunity for consumer-facing companies . But they need to transform now to seize it. In particular, they need to create products that reflect the nuanced concerns of target consumers, and they need to make sure the business operations behind the brand meets those expectations too.
How can CEOs respond? These five strategies will help your organization give consumers the sustainable products they increasingly want, at a price they are willing to pay, while meeting their evolving expectations about how companies should behave:
- Embrace sustainability as a driver of value creation
- Take a holistic perspective, but act on what matters to your business
- Be authentic and be prepared to prove it
- Drive positive impact across the value chain
- Re-design your operating model for sustainable execution, then build it fast
Countries are at different stages of the journey out of the crisis and people around the world are still deeply worried about their futures. In these challenging times, it’s important to view the increased consumer interest in sustainability issues as a growth opportunity, not just another risk or cost.