Ethical issues move up the consumer agenda

06 Mar 2008|Added Value

As headlines over global warming, cheap labour and carbon footprints dominate the press; Europeans are taking an active interest in ethical issues across the board, according to new pan-European research from brand consultancy, Added Value.

  • Ethical is a fast-growing issue – over half of Europeans are interested in ethical issues and 21% say they are a real priority.
  • The UK lags behind Germany and France in terms of rating ethical issues as a priority. However, environmental issues, rather than social or corporate governance are key for the Brits.
  • Consumers say top ethical priorities for brands are pollution/use of resources, packaging/recycling and reducing carbon footprints.
  • Corporate issues that used to be a priority for consumers like animal testing and charity donations are dropping off their radar.

The Germans, with a long history in recycling, are the Europeans with the most engagement with ethical issues; one quarter rate them as a real priority, compared to 22% of the French and just 15% of Brits, although half of the UK respondents say these issues are interesting.

Companies need to carefully consider their direct impact on the environment in the future. Pollution and use of resources is cited as one of the most pressing issues among European consumers in terms of perceived levels of importance by 93% of French, 80% UK and 90% of German respondents.

Packaging and recycling is viewed as an important future issue, especially by the French (89%) and the Brits (85%). Packaged brands are largely responsible for the 30 million tonnes of household waste a year. In the long term, marketers may have to reconsider how to brand products without using wasteful packaging.

Consumers are already voting with their wallets and rejecting brands that either use too much wasteful packaging or packaging that isn’t recyclable. Indeed, 73% French respondents say packaging and recycling makes an impact on purchase, as do 63% of Brits and 59% Germans.

Meanwhile, European consumers are beginning to look for a brand’s commitment in reducing CO2 emissions, especially in France with 92% citing as a future priority. Pepsico’s Walkers crisps is one brand that has seized the initiative, publishing the calculated carbon footprint value for a standard packet of crisps (75g) on each bag. As nearly half of British consumers say reduction of CO2 will impact purchase, Walkers, a well-loved British brand, has made a sensible strategic decision.

Some ethical issues which used to be viewed as important for consumers are beginning to drop off their radar. Animal testing is cited by just 55% of UK respondents, 63% of French and 60% Germans. Yet, 10 years ago, animal testing was a key ethical issue for British consumers.

Charity support is viewed as even less important named by just 45% Germans, 44% Brits and 55% French. These findings suggest that consumers want to see brands taking action themselves to drive social and environmental change, rather than just contribute financially to other charities.

“We believe brands can use an ethical agenda as a springboard for innovation and there’s already evidence of this happening; Starbucks are repackaging spent coffee beans into old coffee bags for customers to use on their compost heaps, whilst Nike have launched their latest Air Jordan shoe made from recycled materials and interlocking panels that don’t need glue. Of course you should also consider the success of M&S as it places sustainability at the centre of its brand. The message for marketers couldn’t be clearer. Savvy brands are incorporating the ethical agenda deep into their marketing strategy,” advises Angus Porter, CEO Added Value.

The research will be presented at Added Value’s Branding for Good Summit, ‘Green 2.0, Avoid the Greenwash,’ on March 6th, which will also feature a keynote interview with Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO WPP.

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For more information please contact:
Michael Saxton, Grappa
Tel: 020 7602 9222

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