Sustainability market signals — the signals guiding the market towards more and better corporate sustainability – are growing.
These signals can be purchase and/or brand-oriented and are sent by consumers looking for both functionality and some form of sustainability inherent in a product/service. The value can be tangible, as in a biodegradable soap or a solar panel, or intangible, such as the feeling one gets buying a local artisan’s hand-made scarf, or helping a Costa Rican cooperative by purchasing their fairly traded coffee.
Less obvious are some more common products such as low energy light bulbs (probably the most successful sustainability product ever) or simply buying one brand over a competitor’s because it has more sustainable packaging. (See the example of Puma’s clever little bag in Do we really understand shared sustainability value creation?)
There are also non-purchase sustainability market signals. A long-time stakeholder favorite is the boycott and increasingly, positive or negative stakeholder media campaigns. More traditional approaches include stakeholders advocating for regulatory change and/or various forms of civil disobedience. GMO opposition is a prime example.
Sustainability market signals are growing. Consumer surveys from Latin America, Asia, Europe the UK and the US confirm this, all saying pretty much the same: about 50% of consumers are excited by the thought of making sustainability purchases and between 15% and 25% actually do so on a fairly regular basis.
If I would have to guess, the hard core sustainability market, or consumers whose majority purchases have some inherent sustainability value is still far less than 1% world-wide.
A much higher percentage of folks are sending non-purchase signals especially, for example, around minimum wage, work conditions in the textile industry, local food production and consumption, health and safety issues, and economic, social and race equality/justice.
Curiously and frustratingly, most consumers and advocates have yet to put 2 + 2 together and don’t flex the exponential power of consistently sending purchase and non-purchase signals together. Fighting companies selling GMO food but still buying GMO laced foods is a prime example.
The days is coming where these two signals converge more coherently in the marketplace. In the meantime, we can take heart that like no other warm and fuzzy concept, sustainability has penetrated deeply into the heart and soul of the market psyche.
The holiday season is upon us.
Sell and buy well.