Biotech firm Genomatica recently released dataa that showed 95% of Americans found sustainability to be a good goal—including 70% of surveyed Republicans and 80% of Democrats. Millennials are most focused on sustainability (78%), followed by baby boomers (76%) and, rather surprisingly, Gen X (71%) and Gen Z (69%). Of these respondents, 24% feel guilt and shame over their personal sustainability. This is exacerbated by the fact that 48% of survey participants reported that sustainability is made difficult due to a lack of convenience, low awareness of solutions and low availability of sustainable options.
A Nation of Label Readers
According to the survey, 56% of consumers look ingredient labels when shopping, led by baby boomers (69%), Gen X (57%), millennials (53%) and Gen Z (35%). Ironically there is a disconnect between label readership and comprehension. Per Genomatica, 34% of millennials understand all the ingredients on a label, compared to baby boomers and Gen X (both 23%) and Gen Z (20%).
Lack of Ingredient Literacy
Despite that some consumers are vocal about ingredients, 74% report not knowing what many ingredients are or how to find more information about them.
Synthetic chemistries—particularly fossil-fuel-derived materials—are featured in 96% of all manufactured goods, per Genomatica’s calculations, yet most consumers are unaware of this fact. In particular, the survey found that 42% of respondents didn’t realize personal care products sometimes comprise crude oil-based materials. This could set up unrealistic expectations and potential disappointment/concern.
Voting with Wallets
Twenty-six percent of consumers will spend more with a brand that boosts its sustainability. Millennials over-index in this regard (34%), compared to Gen Z (24%) and baby boomers (18%). Conversely, nearly half of respondents say they’ve boycotted a brand, with 24% and 23% doing so due to unsustainable products and practices, respectively (36% of Gen Z have boycotted due to unsustainable products).
Brands seeking to leverage consumer goodwill would do well to communicate ingredients clearly and honestly and to tout any sustainability initiatives to build additional goodwill.
Brands that underdeliver green and clean benefits will likely be unsuccessful in this environment.
“In order to avoid greenwashing, brands need to decide what claims (regarding naturality or sustainability) they are going to make from the very beginning of the product brief,” says Audrey Wesson, strategic marketing associate, INOLEX. “This needs to happen early because they need to source ingredients according to the claim they are aiming for.”
For the full article, check out Global Cosmetic Industry's February digital magazine.