Do Consumer Favor Sustainable Brands for Their Products and Services Needs? NYU Stern School Research Dives Deep into the Data For Answers

Do Consumer Favor Sustainable Brands for Their Products and Services Needs? NYU Stern School Research Dives Deep into the Data For Answers

Many people in consumer marketing are wondering!  In these weekly commentaries the G&A Institute team offers media and experts’ shared perspectives on various issues and matters related to corporate sustainability, responsibility; and, sustainable, responsible and impact investing.

In recent months the content frequently has focused on trends in the consumer market -- are consumers reacting to brand-facing companies positioning themselves as sustainability leaders? Is this a successful strategy?  Worth the effort?  Are consumers now favoring sustainable or green (or pick your term of definition) for their products & services at retail?  Wondering?
Our news, feature and research results -- such as in the fashion and footwear industries, the auto industry, food & beverages, and certain other categories with brand leaders often introducing sustainable products alongside their usual cash cows. We have some items for you this week along these lines.

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Tensie Whelan, professor at New York University Stern School of Business, and leader of the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, and Randi Kronthal-Sacco, director of Corporate Outreach for the Center (and formerly with Johnson & Johnson) describe the results of their recent in-depth research project. 

This research centered on trying to answer the question -- do U.S. consumers actually purchase sustainably marketed products?  (Spoiler alert: yes – you must read the HBR article to find out more.) 

Whelan and Kronthal-Sacco used volumes of data sets from bar scan codes at retail for food, drug, dollar, and mass merchandisers, looking at 36 categories and 71,000+ SKUs, accounting for 40% of consumer products goods (CPG) sales over a 5-year period.

So, what did they find to be the largest share of sustainability-marketed products?  Almost $1-in-$5 purchases at retail are for toilet tissue, facial tissue (think: forest products); milk, yogurt (the yield of countless dairy farmers); coffee (lots of attention on the global coffee-growing belt circling the Earth, and worker conditions therein); salty snacks (really?); and bottled juices (you notice that Coke and Pepsi and other beverage marketers are advertising their shift away from sugary drinks).  At the bottom of market share:  laundry care, floor cleaners and chocolate candy (accounting for a 5% share).

Say Tensie and Randi:  pay attention, marketers and those all along the retail value chain, from grower field and factory floor to shelf space.  Consumers are voting with their dollars, for sustainable and against un-sustainable brands.  Winners in the corporate sector include PepsiCo and Unilever; laggards include Kraft Heinz. (Unilever:  think labels like Seventh Generation, Sundial Brands and Pukka Herbs.)

And we are seeing in the many stories we bring you each week about consumers and sustainability, the future for sustainable CPG at retail is increasing – look at the apparel industry.  The agora is alive and well with many more sustainably branded products on the shelves.  That’s the good news for sustainability professionals.

The NYU researchers used data from IRi (the research house for CGP, retail and health and beauty – information at:

Congratulations to our colleagues Tensie Whelan and Randi Kronthal-Sacco at NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business for sharing their insights and perspectives.


This Week's Top Stories

Research: Actually, Consumers Do Buy Sustainable Products
(Thursday - June 20, 2019) Source: Harvard Business Review - NYU Stern’s Center for Sustainable Business just completed extensive research into U.S. consumers’ actual purchasing of consumer packaged goods (CPG), using data contributed by IRI, and found that 50% of CPG growth from 2013 to... 

Global Sustainability: Continuing Forward Momentum!

New Platform Hailed as ‘Netflix of Supply Chain Sustainability’
(Friday - June 14, 2019) Source: Thomas Net - Set to revolutionize supply chain sustainability, a new web platform created by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is now available for professionals to more efficiently keep up with the increasing sustainability demands of the... 

The Flying Dutchmen - How The Netherlands Wants To Make Aviation Sustainable
(Tuesday - June 18, 2019) Source: Forbes - Earlier this month, aviation executives from all over the world flew to Seoul for the annual meeting of the IATA, the International Air Transport Association. 

8 Characteristics Of Millennials That Support Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
(Thursday - June 20, 2019) Source: Forbes - Sustainable and ethical business practices are forcing most organizations to conform to environmental, social, and governance tenets such as diversity & inclusion and transparency. Millennials are investing in and working for... 


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Sustainability & the World of Fashion�

Does ‘Sustainable Fashion’ Really Mean Anything?
(Tuesday - June 18, 2019) Source: Wall Street Journal - Sustainability” was the buzziest buzzword in the air during last week’s edition of Pitti Uomo, the world’s largest men’s fashion trade show, in Florence, Italy. As I navigated countless rows of designers’ booths, those pitching... 

5 Sustainable And Stylish Furniture Brands In Europe
(Wednesday - June 19, 2019) Source: Euronews - We have provided you with 5 brands across Europe that aim to make furniture with the smallest environmental impact. 

How to Create Sustainable Fashion From Recycled Clothing
(Thursday - June 20, 2019) Source: Forbes - Ripped or torn stockings. A stained blouse. A discolored dress. A lonely sock. The washed-out T-shirt. The worn-out jeans. Or the one that you never wore. Or the one that don’t fit anymore. The skirt with the color that wasn’t... 


Quick Scan of the Headlines:
ESG Topics & Front-of-Mind Issues

Without swift action on climate change, heat waves could kill thousands in U.S. cities 
Tuesday - June 18, 2019) Source: NBC News 

China’s economic census uncovers more fake data as officials promise ‘zero tolerance’ to data manipulation  
(Thursday - June 20, 2019) Source: South China Morning Post

Headlines From the Corporate Sector

Dow releases annual Sustainability Report
(Tuesday - June 18, 2019) Source: Yahoo Finance - Dow (DOW) has released its 2018 Sustainability Report, which shares its progress against its 2025 Sustainability Goals and demonstrates its commitment to collaborate with value chain partners and other stakeholders to find more...

Sustainability and the World of Auto Manufacturing…

BMW joins sustainable natural rubber platform
(Friday - June 14, 2019) Source: Tire Business 

VW Is Closing in on Ford Deal on Electric, Autonomous Cars  
(Friday - June 14, 2019) Source: Yahoo Finance

GM’s race to outflank Tesla may be stalling out
(Tuesday - June 18, 2019) Source: CNBC


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