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Sustainability: the new customer expectation

Build customer advocacy by aligning your company with this emerging trend and core value

Published on
March 8, 2021

Having a product or service that provides value to your customers is no longer enough. Expectations have changed, and customers increasingly value the contribution to society and to the planet that companies pledge, and make choices based on how companies respond.

There is a growing trend that customers are increasingly choosing and advocating for organisations that live by sustainable values. In fact, a recent survey of 2,000 people in the UK identified that 49% of consumers (across demographics) are more likely to recommend brands that address environmental concerns.

“49% of consumers (across demographics) are more likely to recommend brands that address environmental concerns.”
Mention Me, 2020

With the rise of decarbonisation, regenerative design and eco-shame, consumers are not only expecting organisations to do no harm to the planet but to have an active role in reversing climate change by helping them live more sustainably. A 2018 survey by OnePulse revealed that 88% of consumers want brands to help them live sustainably.

“88% of consumers want brands to help them live sustainability”
Futerra, 2018

Companies are responding to these trends through internal and external facing sustainability initiatives.

  • Internal initiatives focus on the levers organisations can pull in how they can more sustainably operate day to day e.g. by using compostable packaging.
  • External Initiatives focus on the ways they can contribute towards sustainability beyond their day to day operations. They represent a stake in the ground for what you stand for as a brand e.g. advocating for sustainability by planting a tree every time a customer buys their product.

Despite these rising trends, some companies are still failing to respond meaningfully, if at all, and don’t always know how to bring this to life in a meaningful way in the context of their services, products and experiences. Common pitfalls are:

Without a deep understanding of what customers value when it comes to sustainability, companies fail to instil this into their business in a way that is meaningful to customers.

Companies can start by asking themselves these two questions:

1. What does sustainability mean for your company in the eyes of your customers (internally and externally)?

2. How can you translate this increasing trend and core value into your purpose, strategy, experience or product?

Take inspiration from these three companies who have take the time to understand their customer values, and respond to customer needs by implementing sustainability into their purpose, strategy, experiences and/or products.

1. Patagonia - Worn wear program

The opportunity: Patagonia saw an opportunity to counteract fast fashion by extending the product lifecycle of their clothing and offering a great customer experience in the process

The initiative: The Worn wear program offers a service that repairs, resells and recycles preloved garments and enables customers to trade old Patagonia clothes in for store credit.

Impact to consumers: Patagonia have created brand loyalty through extending their products' lifecycle and by making repeat purchases far more seamless for their customers. Rather than customers asking ‘what brand jacket will I get to replace my old one?’ the question becomes ‘which Patagonia jacket will I spend this store credit on?’

How might your company extend product lifecycle and build customer loyalty in the process?

2. IKEA - "One little thing" campaign

The opportunity: Sustainability has been a focus of IKEA's strategy over the last few years, now turning their attention to how they can empower their customers in the face of an overwhelming and nebulous issue like climate change.

The initiative: Focusing on smaller catalogue items, IKEA has developed a range of affordable and sustainable products like glass food storage and LED light bulbs. This initiative builds on the idea that consumers have the power to make small, sustainable actions which lead to large global impact.

Impact to consumers: By making sustainable alternatives affordable and demonstrating their impact, IKEA have made it easy for their customers to make more environmentally conscious choices enabling them to live in line with their values

How might your company demonstrate the impact of providing a sustainable alternative?

3. HP - Packaging

The opportunity: Ranking on the Corporate Knights’ 2019 list of the 100 most 100 sustainable corporations Hewlett Packard has the goal to become the world's most sustainable and just technology company.

The initiative: HP has begun using ocean-bound plastic as a material to use in their products, repurposing 1.7 million tonnes so far. They have also made the commitment to eliminate 75% of their single use plastic packaging by 2025, creating recyclable laptop and printer packaging that facilitates a faster and more natural product setup by printing simple instructions on the box itself.

Impact to consumers: HP builds trust with their customers by demonstrating how the brand aligns with their values and being transparent about their sustainability practices throughout their supply chain. They have also made it easier for their customers to use their products through the redesign of their sustainable packaging.

How might your company improve the customer experience through redesigning for sustainability?

As sustainability becomes increasingly front of mind for your customers, it's important to understand how to embed this core value into your company purpose, strategy, experience or product in a way that aligns with your customer values and ultimately builds customer advocacy.

Speak with an expert

Cindy Chang
Head of Customer Experience Strategy
Email me

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