Consumers Expect Environmental Sustainability From Marketers

BY Kathy Crosett
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Attitudes and expectations are quickly changing, and today's consumers expect environmental sustainability from marketers. Only a few years ago, coffee drinkers were happy to toss out packaging that allowed them to personalize their coffee using pods. 

Now, they want little to do with fast fashion or wasteful production. They’re holding marketers accountable for practices that might contribute to climate change. This new sentiment could be an opportunity for your clients.


Most consumers expect their favorite brands to be environmentally sustainable. However, many younger consumers have moved on to the concept of regeneration. In the U.S., 35% of consumers are familiar with this concept, and 75% believe businesses must drive the trend. 

In Regeneration Rising, a report by Wunderman Thompson, analysts define the concept as “going beyond sustainability and mitigating harm, to actively restoring and nurturing, creating conditions where ecosystems, economies, and people can flourish.”

It’s easier for some industries, such as agriculture, to point to the regenerative progress they are making. Farmers can rotate crops in their fields to restore nutrients instead of using harmful fertilizers. 

For small local brands, environmental sustainability examples, like not using plastic bags, will resonate with consumers. Restaurants that tout their practices of donating unused food and composting leftovers can also boost their reputation with environmentally-​minded consumers.

Global Problems and Local Solutions

Researchers in the Wunderman Thompson survey compared consumer attitudes with those measured three years ago. Not surprisingly, there was a huge jump in the number of consumers who believe infectious diseases and pandemics are the world's top problems today.

Terrorism, which was number one in 2018, now ranks seventh on the list of problems. The second and third items on the list have not changed in the past three years. Consumers say environmental science and sustainability challenges, like climate change and environmental protection, are the top issues worldwide.

Many of us are willing to make personal sacrifices ranging from avoiding single-​use plastic items (63%) to consuming less (58%). We acknowledge that making this kind of change isn’t easy. 

We expect help from our favorite brands, and 89% agree that companies must do more to reduce their "carbon impact" and that ‘sustainability should be a standard business practice.’

Sustainability From Marketers

Brands in urban markets may feel particularly challenged on environmental sustainability in companies. Your clients should know that consumers notice when brands take an inspirational leadership role. 

In fact, analysts point out that “inspiration predicts 63% of the variation in consumer demand for brands.” And the inspiration factor contributes to 52% of “brands’ ability to command higher prices.”

Talk with your brands, especially those in urban markets, about how they can innovate inspiration on the local level. Taking steps to clean up a park that’s been left for dead and actively working in the community to reduce the human carbon footprint make for great stories that can be promoted in advertising.

Wrapping Up

To help your clients target consumers who identify as concerned about environmental sustainability, check out the AudienceSCAN profiles available in AdMall from SalesFuel. Environmental-​cause supporters and environmental-​impact-​based vehicle shoppers make a good starting place. While we tend to emphasize environmental marketing for Earth Day, it’s clear that more consumers want to keep the issue front and center on a daily basis.