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Sustainability Builds Brands

The more sustainable a brand is perceived, the more meaningful it becomes to consumers, according to research from Havas Media.

A key finding of the “Brand Sustainable Futures” analysis finds that only one-third of brands are considered meaningful to consumers. It also reveals that while sustainability is a key issue for consumers worldwide few brands live up to increasing expectations.

According to the survey of more than 30,000 people across four continents and nine markets, the vast majority of mainstream consumers wouldn’t care if two thirds of today’s global brands disappeared in the future.

More than half of the consumers surveyed say confusion, a lack of clarity and perceived higher prices prevent responsible purchasing.

The analysis also shows that social issues and sustainability still rank as major concerns among consumers worldwide with 80 percent of consumers expecting business to act responsibly. In addition, an increasing majority (76 percent vs. 70 percent in 2009) place the responsibility for environmental and social issues on business rather than governments, say researchers.

Other key findings reveal that only 29 percent of respondents believe that brands are working hard to resolve sustainability issues and 68 percent (64 percent in 2009) believe companies only act responsibly in order to improve their image.

The analysis also shows opportunities for brands who adopt clear and engaging communications, offer greater product incentives (such as price) and availability, which were all cited as key barriers to responsible consumption, say researchers.

These barriers varied by country, with price the main issue in western economies (France, UK, US and Germany) and lack of information the most important in Spain and fast growing markets such as China, Brazil, Mexico and India.

Havas Media says the project’s proprietary metric, the Brand Sustainable Futures Quotient (BSF Quotient), allows a company to assess, track and compare its brand’s sustainable health over time.

In the 2010 analysis, IKEA received the highest score of the “multi-market” brands, while scores have risen for almost all brands surveyed from 2009. Companies that improved the most this year include Volkswagen, BMW, L’Oreal , BBVA, Reckitt Benckiser and Carrefour.

The study also looks at brands by sector. The brands with the most defined sustainability profiles last year included food and consumer-product brands and retailers such as Danone, Nestlé and Unilever, say researchers.

This year a more diverse selection of brands from other industries are making a difference versus their competitors by raising their sustainability brand profile including BMW, Volkswagen and Philips, say researchers.

The study also finds that integrated 360-degree approaches are needed to communicate sustainable issues. These include digital and indirect communications channels (such comments from employees, friends & family, key opinion leaders, experts, NGOs, certification labels).

Branding of green products also is considered to be more difficult than traditional products.

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