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The Happily Ever After of Sustainable Businesses (II) – Consumer Expectations

Welcome back to our story of Cinderella – the business that earns its place in being profitable. (Check out part I if you are lost). Today we will discuss about consumer expectations.

As a Myth community member, we already have a head start because these are values embedded into the core of our businesses. But that is not enough, we must continuously evolve and take baby steps to do more. We take baby steps because drastic changes are as dangerous as the stepsister cutting off her toe, it will be difficult to make any steps at all in the long run.

Here’s a couple of thoughts on consumer expectations:

Expectation 1: Doing good whilst spending

Today consumers are ready to pick the option that “does good”. Even though they are not yet going to go all the way out there to look for it. Hence small, sustainable/ socially responsible companies have to go the extra mile to advocate for the good that they stand for.

Emphasize on the efforts and steps that you are taking to achieve those values that you have, by being transparent and honest about it.

As repeated in many conversations about sustainability, consumers do not expect companies to be perfect but they expect transparency about the steps taken and those to follow. Creating that emotional bond through powerful storytelling and building trust with the consumer draws a clear line between large corporates where the consumer receives standard, mass produced and impersonal products and services. This creates the first competitive advantage in making an impression that lasts.

In one of the discussions with the Brewers of Europe during the EU Green Week 2020, a well-known brewery in Spain shared their story. For years they have hid their efforts in using organic ingredients and sustainable brewing practices to create their beer. Because they realized that in their home market, people are put off by that kind of stuff! Well, now is the time to pull all those stories out. Because it’s what the consumers are looking for.

Expectation 2: Know what's in my product

It’s the right time to educate consumers because they want to know. Just putting a header stating “organic skincare” is not enough. You need to clearly articulate how you do it, bringing the process to light. Because consumers of the current and next generation do ask questions and want to be told why and how. It’s important to distinguish knowing and understanding. This doesn’t mean there is a strong will from everyone to go the extra mile to truly understand. Hence, you need to avoid drowning people with technicalities that requires further research and deep understanding of things.

Many large corporates have jumped on the “sustainable wagon” in the last few years. To gain their “social license to operate” (or continue to operate). Other companies swiftly adjust their marketing and communications to emphasize on “natural products”. Without being able to detail what that really means. This is possible due to the vague definitions of many claims. Lack of standards and governance in many marketplaces on what constitutes organic, sustainable and socially responsible. Therefore elaboration and education play a very important role for consumers in making informed decisions.

There are many certifications available globally today. However the consumer’s lack understanding to even, what these certifications really mean. (For those in for a good read in about certifications out there here’s a great article). This exposes the need for clear policy setting and recognition towards such certifications. But on a business level, why not educate the customer at least what it means for your company to have obtained these certificates? How many people really understand what it means when the piece of fabric on their clothes is GOTS certified? Or the leaping bunny logo? An image of who made our clothes is even more powerful than certification and accreditation that is more expensive to obtain. So where does that leave us?

Establish authority and your voice

How to separate yourself (Real Cinderella) from those that are greenwashing and making inaccurate claims about their efforts (The two stepsisters)? In many ways content marketing may play a huge role in here on the day-to-day operations. By creating a voice that people turn to when they are in doubt and thus, authority in what your company has to say about its products. The only downside is that sometimes this becomes a rather passive approach to wait for one to be curious about your subject. There are many businesses that start to take part in community activities in educating the wider audiences through seminars and activities. Those activities create a proactive approach in spreading memorable messages.

We know that people make decisions based on other factors than doing good, it doesn’t mean we have to enter into the price and trend war. But rather, we need to make sure that the future is part of their consideration going forward. And we should look at joining forces to amplify that voice where possible. Looking back at Clark’s statement, we need narratives about living in the world of tomorrow.

We anticipate that in the near future the Myth community will also start working on bringing activities that create better awareness and education to the wider consumers. With the collaboration of our Myth community members from all disciplines, to play our part in achieving this ambitious agenda. We believe that collectively we can make big waves in the ocean. Are you ready to join us on this journey?