I think many of us acknowledge that the concept of sustainability is important not only to our generation but the next generation. So why do we still live an unsustainable lifestyle?
I think most of us recognize only a few trust marks like “organic” and “fairtrade” and understand even fewer. The best known trust marks are often associated with a price premium, which most of us are unwilling to pay. While third party agencies or other certification address the issues of unsustainable business practices, many products generate significant impacts such as greenhouse gas emissions through consumption and disposal.
Businesses have been finding ways to communicate sustainability to consumers and encourage behaviour change. To do this effectively, they need to understand how consumers think, feel, and act. But companies often fail to change consumers’ behaviour, despite becoming increasingly aware of the issues. For example, messages that contain guilt or fear are usually shut out by consumers. We feel disempowered by the scale of challenges of changing our lifestyle and a lack of direction about how we can change. We also often react with skepticism and dismiss what we see on the ads as practices of greenwashing.
To better promote sustainability and change behaviour through effective consumer engagement, I suggest businesses should do the right research to understand how consumers really think, act, and feel about the brand. For instance, on a survey, avoid asking green questions because the chances of getting green answers are pretty high. We know which answer is the “correct” response and we tend to pick that even if we are not acting upon it in real life. Observational research and open ended questions should be much helpful in generating reliable and useful data. Also, corporate sustainable messages should be direct and immediate, personal and emotional, visual and imaginative. Firms should focus on involving and inspiring consumers through different communication channels.
To be honest, I don’t think sustainability will be the main concern for the majority of our population. But we are concerned and depend on businesses to come up with innovate sustainable products and services to enable sustainable living.