Nielsen research: Good news about the sustainable consumer, or is it?

The well-known research firm Nielsen has turned its attention to the sustainable consumer.

Their research is summmarised here. And below.

Here's a quote from their research:

"You’d be hard-pressed to find a consumer who said he or she didn’t care about the environment, or extreme poverty around the world. But does care convert to action when it comes to buying decisions? Assuming a positive ratio between a stated willingness to pay and an actual willingness to open one’s wallet, the survey found that the answer is yes for a growing number of consumers around the world."

I think they are making a mistake in assuming a positive ratio between a stated willingness to pay and an actual willingness to open one's wallet, as they put it.

I went on a bit of a rant about ethical consumers and the limitations of eco labels and certification to produce more than double digit sustainable market share in any area other than wood products last week at the RSA. A link to that post is here. (and the FSC example is tenuous given some controversies about their system)

This is really one area where I would love to be wrong, but I haven't seen any evidence that real sustainable purchasing by consumers (serious mainstreaming of ethical/sustainable consumption choices) has occurred or is happening. Perhaps social media will change that. Perhaps the internet of things will change that, somehow.

In the meantime, it's big companies working with each other and NGOs/others that are making the change happen. It's slow so far but I hope accelerating, although it is hard to tell.

I don't believe consumers want to make unsustainable choices, they just want companies to look after the complexity of it all so they don't have to choose, as doing so is just too complex (and it is).

Companies themselves find this hard enough, and it's what they do. So what chance consumers?

I guess the other reason I am sceptical about 'the consumer revolution' is that I don't believe in magic bullets.

These appeal to the delusional, and the canard of the mainstream sustainable consumer is the biggest opportunity CEOs have to be delusional as it fits their views on modern thinking ("follow your customers and what they want").

That though, has evolved now to become "do what the consumer expects, which is quality and sustainability, at no extra cost".

That's much hard to swallow given that re-engineering systems to make this happen usually carries a cost in the short to medium term. That makes it at odds with many incentives, as we all know.

Anyhow, here's the Nielsen research, which may cheer you up, even it doesn't put extra money in your company's coffers this week or next:

More here.
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