New Zealanders believe supermarkets and electricity retailers are doing the most to be more sustainable, according to new research. However, consumers want brands in all industries to be more open and upfront about sustainability.

The findings of the In Good Company report demonstrate that sustainability is not just something shoppers care about when making a purchase, but is actively contributing to how they choose what to buy.

Commissioned by the Sustainable Business Council, Porter Novelli and Perceptive, the findings reveal significant opportunities for business leadership. More than 2,000 New Zealanders took part in the study which looked at eight industry sectors including supermarkets, automobile, broadband and mobile, fashion/apparel, financial institutions, fuel and large retailers, and electricity.

Abbie Reynolds

“New Zealand businesses are increasingly embedding sustainability into their strategies and business practice; however, many businesses are reluctant to talk about what they’re actually doing," said Abbie Reynolds, executive director of the Sustainable Business Council.

“In many cases, it’s a matter of ‘green hush’, rather than greenwash. This research shows there is an important opportunity for business in New Zealand to show leadership."

Of the respondents, 64 percent of New Zealand consumers said they cared the most about the sustainability of brands when purchasing from supermarket retailers, and almost half (49 percent) admitted their purchase decisions are influenced by how sustainable a brand/product is when purchasing from a supermarket retailer.

“Customers are increasingly becoming more likely to research the sustainability practices of brands, and they are demanding more information. Our research shows that 71 percent of New Zealanders are actively researching this before making a product purchase and that’s a sign that businesses need to step up," said James Walker, executive director for sustainability at Porter Novelli.

“Respondents said that they want brands to be more honest and transparent, as well as promoting the sustainability activity that is being undertaken. If customers don’t know what businesses are doing to become more sustainable, how can they choose them for it?”

Despite the results from the research providing insight into what business sustainability leadership looks like to New Zealanders, those involved in the research say it’s important to recognise that perception does not always equal reality. Brands should consider both what they’re actually doing to operate more sustainably and how this is being perceived by customers.

“What’s interesting about these findings is that sustainability is not just something New Zealanders care about, it’s also
increasingly impacting their purchase decisions," noted Oliver Allen, general manager of Perceptive. "Choosing a brand that operates in a sustainable manner falls just behind quality and price but ranks higher than customer service and recommendations from friends and family. This is something which brands should be taking note of across the board.”