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Over 80% of Manufacturers Call Sustainability Key

More than 80 percent of manufacturers say sustainability is essential to the success of their business, according to an Underwriters Laboratories report.

UL’s 2012 annual global study, The Product Mindset, which examines manufacturer and consumer perceptions about how products are made, sold, bought and consumed, shows sustainable operations and products are becoming more important to manufacturers and consumers.

Eight-one percent of manufacturers agree sustainability products affect their ability to compete in the marketplace, and 89 percent say the same thing about operational sustainability. This represents an increase from 2011, when 76 percent and 85 percent said sustainable products and operations were important, respectively.

But the overall percentage of manufacturers that say environmentally friendly products can be profitable has declined by 5 percent compared with 2011. Sixty percent still agree that the environment can be profitable (see chart).

For the study, researchers interviewed 1,201 consumers and 1,202 manufacturers in China, Germany, India and the US about topics related to safety, performance, innovation and sustainability. Manufacturers were selected from the high technology/consumer electronics, food, smart appliances and building materials sectors and were interviewed by phone. Consumers were interviewed through an online survey.

Two-thirds (67 percent) of manufacturers say they “strongly agree” the environment is becoming more important to consumers, while 53 percent say consumers are demanding more eco-friendly products that cost the same as their traditional counterparts.

And while consumers say being environmentally friendly is important, it’s not the top purchase driver, the study found. Quality and safety are the top issues consumers consider when making a purchase; nine percent cite environmental friendliness as the main reason they buy a product.

However, consumers also say manufacturers don’t put sufficient emphasis on being environmentally friendly, UL reports. Fifty percent say manufacturers aren’t prioritizing environmentally friendly manufacturing procedures or products in the processed food category, and that percentage only drops slightly when asked about environmentally friendly manufacturing procedures and products, respectively, in the survey’s other categories: high-tech/consumer electronics (49 and 48 percent), home building materials (47 and 48 percent), fresh food (46 percent on both measures) and smart appliances (45 and 42 percent).

Additionally, consumers rank environmental friendliness (25 percent) as the top issue that manufacturers should prioritize when it comes to home building materials, according to the report.

The issue ranks No. 3 in the fresh food (16 percent), processed food (14 percent) and smart appliance categories (15 percent), and falls to the bottom of the list, No. 6 in the high-tech consumer electronics category (10 percent).

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