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October 1, 2020

4 Key Insights Into Consumers and Brand Sustainability in Australia

by Joy Corkery

Even though 9 out of 10 Australians are concerned about sustainability, Australia rates poorly when it comes to clean energy and climate change goals. Making progress here lies in the hands of the government, some might argue. But that’s not necessarily true.

Local designers are already playing their part to make a difference, switching to producing conscious, ethical, and cruelty-free fashion. However, the big-name brands are slow to follow. Think of Amazon’s excessive packaging or the fast fashion practices of brands like H&M and Zara. Sales may still be high right now but the mindset of consumers is changing - and brands will need to keep up in order to survive.

But what exactly is it that consumers want from you as a brand? Our latest sustainable study asked 1046 respondents for their opinion. The answers are key to prevailing in today’s ever-changing world.

Consumers Want Brands With A Sustainable Reputation

We often see statistics like “49% of consumers need at least a four-star rating before they choose to use a business” and “consumers read an average of 7 reviews before trusting a business.” But that is not the only thing affecting consumer purchasing choices.

69% of respondents from the sustainability study put importance on knowing a brand has a good online reputation for being environmentally sustainable. That’s a much higher number than those who care about four-star ratings, showing that sustainability is becoming a key factor for consumers.

56% of respondents stated that they would buy a sustainable product over another. A further 38% of respondents answered “maybe”. Just 6% of respondents surveyed answered “no”.

Again, this shows that consumers are swaying more towards sustainability. So much so that 44% of respondents are willing to pay more for sustainable products. However, a significant chunk of respondents (30%) did signify that they wouldn’t pay more for those more sustainable products.

One brand that has built a reputation for being sustainable, and is benefiting as a result, is the fashion label Arnsdorf.

Arnsdorf prides itself on transparency and follows an approach to clothes that are built around sustainable design and manufacturing. Practically every part of the design and creation process has now been taken in-house in the brand’s Melbourne factory.

Furthermore, the label rejects the traditional fashion cycle of releasing new clothes every season. Arnsdorf runs a constant collection of permanent pieces as well as very limited runs of “trans-seasonal” collections.

Thanks to all of Arnsdorf’s work to create such an ethical brand, they are now fully accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia.

Consumers Are Not Finding It Easy To Find Sustainable Brands

Although consumers are actively looking for sustainable brands, they are finding it difficult to locate brands that meet this criteria. 37% of respondents indicated that they didn’t know any brands that offer sustainable products. This is despite the fact that 43% of respondents indicated that they search for sustainable companies.

It shouldn’t be difficult for you as a sustainable brand to find the right audience. There are a few steps to take to increase your visibility:

  • Join an ethical database. Once you roll out ethical practices, join a database, such as The Good Shopping Guide. As more consumers start to actively seek out sustainable brands, these databases are a brilliant tool for matchmaking.

  • Shout about sustainable values in brand marketing. You need to make it clear in your marketing just how ethical and sustainable your brand is. Word of mouth should do the rest. If someone uses your brand for its sustainability and it exceeds their expectations, then they will surely tell their ethically minded friends. Plus, as long as mentions of sustainable efforts feature in adverts and branding, more consumers will see it when out and about.

  • Get certified. There are a few different green certificates that you can get. Once a certificate has been granted, they’ll usually be listed on the accrediting organization’s website.

Consumers Won’t Be Fooled By Greenwashing

H&M’s “Conscious” line is one of the most marketed sustainable fashion lines, thanks to the brand’s big budget. Sustainable shoppers will be impressed by claims of organic cotton and recycled polyester. However, a more detailed look at the products shows the use of greenwashing by the brand to make themselves appear more environmentally friendly. For instance, a men’s “green” long sleeve shirt from H&M might be made of “100% organic cotton”, but, on average, it takes about 20,000 liters of water to produce.

The Australian Association of National Advertisers has begun cracking down on greenwashing, and consumers won’t be fooled by greenwashing either.

They look beyond marketing to more tangible aspects of products to determine if it is right for them. In fact, respondent’s top three most important things it came to a sustainable product were:

Recyclable packaging (37%) No harmful chemicals (34%) Made from 100% recycled materials (34%)

Consumers who make sustainable purchases will be easily able to determine the truth in these areas. If they find out your brand is deceiving, they will leave negative reviews and damage your reputation.

Sustainability More Pressing For Some Industries

Based on respondents answers, these are the top three industries people expect to be more environmentally sustainable:

Household products (43%) Personal care (40%) Food and non-alcoholic beverages (37%)

Consumers will shop with their feet and it will be interesting to track these industries over time to identify any downward trends for certain brands.

As consumers look to reduce the number of chemicals in their homes, many view green and organic household products as being better for them. This is one reason why brands such as Tri Nature are doing so well at the minute. Their eco-friendly products and sustainable production methods have led to the brand becoming market leaders in green technologies within the household-products industry.

Similarly, when it comes to personal care products, those which are eco-friendly are often considered to be safer by consumers. Scout Cosmetics is a brand that shows how to do safe, sustainable personal care well. By only using natural Australian ingredients, Scout has created organic vegan beauty products that have gone on to win accreditations from ACO Certified Organic and Australian Made and Owned, amongst others.

It’s not just things that we put in our home or on our skin that people agree should be safer; the food and drinks that we consume are also a large consideration for many. Just take a morning cup of coffee for example. Many Australians rely on their coffee, and the organic brand Sacred Grounds is there to get them through the day when they want to feel good about the coffee they drink. It’s actually one of the few Australian coffee bands that have committed themselves to sustainability. From only selling biodegradable and recyclable cups and trays to only using products and ingredients that have been certified organic, the brand has quickly become known as one of Australia’s only eco-friendly coffee brands.

Final Thoughts

Sustainability is the future for consumers. The insights derived from our study have made that clear. Consumers are fickle and have plenty of options as to where to spend their money. Even despite years of brand loyalty, if a new brand fits their needs and values more, consumers will make the move. Your job is to stop them from moving on from you by growing your brand into one that is truly sustainable.

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