Sustainable Change is a slow process. But does it have to be ‘that’ slow?

Consumers vs. Retailers

 

Sustainability has often been a synonym for luxury, which has pushed customers to shift to affordability instead. According to a recent study by the IBM Institute for Business Value (Haller et al., 2022), although customers have shown an increase in the weight they associate with sustainability when making a purchasing decision, overall product value and price are still the winning factors, carrying the most weight.
This data doesn’t take away from the fact that sustainability is still important in customers’ eyes and that businesses can use it as an opportunity to make positive change, both environmentally and socially. However, according to an article published on Forbes, there is still a substantial disconnect between what retailers think customers want and what they actually ask for. The new generations are seeking more sustainable products, but retailers underestimate the demand (Petro, 2022).

Are small changes enough?

According to Natalie Koltun (2022), editor at Marketing Dive, if a brand wants to actually shift to making business more sustainable, it needs both a short- and long-term strategy. Most importantly, it must ensure small steps are taken at every level of the value chain and company. Adding all these small steps together can make a true difference. What I could deduce from the article, however, is that brands are often either too overwhelmed or too lazy to draw up a clear sustainability strategy. Not only do they underestimate the demand for eco-friendly products, but they often do not show initiative to change (Petro, 2022). As Koltun (2022) mentions, businesses struggle to see how a small, simple step can actually make the difference, which makes me wonder: is that why it is so difficult to make concrete changes? Some well-established companies have shown to be adverse to change because “it would take a full reconfiguration of their business model” and, simply put, too much work. However, what Koltun (2022) is suggesting is to start by making small, traceable, and observable changes.

Making changes is not a “sprint” (but it should also not take forever)

As I learned in one of my Sustainability Marketing classes, one of the key points about Customer Solutions and product value is ensuring the brand is making continuous changes to improve their environmental and social impact (Thiruchittampalam, 2024). It is not a one-stop process but rather a multi-step approach, which Koltun (2022) refers to as a “marathon”. And while I agree with this statement, I also believe it’s important for brands to still keep in mind that, although it’s not a “sprint”, climate change is currently surpassing all of us, and we better start this “marathon” right now. So the question is: Who will win this race? Us or global warming?

References

Haller, K., Wallace, M., Cheung, J., & Gupta, S. (2022, January 13). Consumers want it all: Hybrid shopping, sustainability, and purpose-driven brands. IBM Institute for Business Value. https://www.ibm.com/downloads/cas/YZYLMLEV

Koltun, N. (2022, February 1). The path forward for fashion’s sustainable future may be affordability. Marketing Dive. https://www.marketingdive.com/news/the-path-forward-for-fashions-sustainable-future-may-be-affordability/618079/

Petro, G. (2022, March 11). Consumers Demand Sustainable Products And Shopping Formats. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/gregpetro/2022/03/11/consumers-demand-sustainable-products-and-shopping-formats/?sh=2a2a72df6a06

Thiruchittampalam, D. (2024, February 6). Sustainability Marketing – Week 5, Class 9. [PowerPoint Presentation].  http://blogs.ubc.ca/comm484201sustainabilitymarketing2023w2/files/2024/02/COMM484-Week-5-Class-9-02062024-uploadv1.pdf

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