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Kiwis confused by the way businesses talk about sustainability

Pharmacy customer

Despite the growing support for sustainable business practices in New Zealand, most Kiwis say the way businesses talk about their social and environmental commitments is confusing.

That is the finding of the latest Colmar Brunton “Better Futures” survey, which asked 1000 consumers about their attitudes and behaviours around sustainability and environmental record.

Eight-three per cent of respondents said the way businesses talked about their social and environmental commitments was confusing, which is 11 per cent more than the previous survey found.

At the same time, there is still too much “greenwashing”, or companies jumping on the bandwagon to gain consumer support, without really being sustainable.

“Those are two aspects of the same issue,” Francesca Lipscombe, New Zealand Ecolabelling Trust general manager, said.

“On the one hand, companies get away with unsupported claims which may not breach the Fair Trading Act but they’re still misleading and unhelpful.

“On the other hand, companies who are genuinely doing the right thing don’t promote their good works enough.”

According to the survey, only two brands got more than 1 per cent recognition as being sustainable brand leaders: the Malcolm Rands-founded ecostore, named by 5 per cent of people, and Fonterra, which scored 3 per cent awareness.

“New Zealand organisations do a much better job of communicating their sustainability efforts internally than they do of letting the public know,” Lipscombe said.

At the same time, there is ample opportunity for sustainable brands to communicate their actions to consumers, since 86 per cent of Kiwis surveyed said it was important to work for a socially and environmentally responsible company, up from 72 per cent in 2018.

“Even more tellingly, 90 per cent of respondents – up from 83 per cent last year – said they would stop buying a company’s products or services if they heard about the company being irresponsible or unethical,” said Lipscombe.

Another strong finding from the survey was the emergence of plastic waste as the issue consumers are most concerned about.

Nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) rated it the number one problem, compared with 63 per cent last year.

The survey also found eight out of 10 Kiwis had dispensed with single-use plastic supermarket bags in favour of reusable options – a huge jump on last year’s figure – 30 per cent, while 85 per cent agreed that reducing disposable packaging in general was the right thing to do.

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