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Putting their money where their mouths are

10 February, 2023

We sometimes hear people say that there is a big gap between intention (consumers who say they are willing to pay for sustainable products) and behaviour (consumers who actually do), which complicates the business case for investing in sustainability. Consumers have long said that they value more sustainable products, but the hard spend data to back this up has been largely lacking.  

So we’re always on the look out for new research in this area, to build on the existing body of evidence. Into this space comes McKinsey and NielsonIQ, who have looked at five years of purchasing data for food, drink and personal care products in the US to understand if there was a correlation between sales and sustainable attributes. And after analysing over $400 billion in sales, researchers found a clear link. So much so that on average, sales of more sustainable products grew 8 percentage points quicker between 2017 and 2022 period than other products, particularly those products with claims that consumers felt were more ‘authentic’ and where there was consistency throughout an entire brand portfolio.  

The research is US focused, and took sustainability claims at face value (so no attempt to manage risks of greenwashing). And it didn’t look at whether these brands were investing more in marketing than their peers. But despite these limitations, it’s well worth a read, particularly if you’re wondering whether consumers really do put their money where their mouths are. 

By Marie Guerinet

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