Consumers expect brands to lead war on planet’s woes

climate 2Sceptics of the Covid “new normal” think again; post-pandemic, consumers have an appetite to change the way they live, learn, work and do business and they are looking to brands and businesses to lead the way.

That is the stand-out finding of a new study by Wunderman Thompson, which quizzed more than 3,000 adults in the UK, the US and China, and reveals that consumers are willing to change their lives, make personal sacrifices for the planet and even give up simple pleasures.

Some 94% of those surveyed are making some effort to live more sustainably (2018: 92%) and 46% are doing all they can (2018: 39%) but nearly all of them expect brands to lead the way (86%).

Wunderman Thompson global chief strategy officer Neil Dawson said: “There is no doubt that sustainability has become one of the top corporate priorities in recent years. We increasingly hear from clients that they want their brands to lead the way in creating positive impact, and that their company needs and wants to address sustainability for a better future.”

However, regeneration goes beyond sustainability, aiming for a positive and restorative impact, rather than just seeking to do less harm.

Concerns over the planet and biodiversity remain high, despite the dramatic health and economic impacts of the pandemic. On a list of problems the world faces, people choose climate change as the second biggest threat behind infectious disease, chosen by 41% of respondents (34% in 2018).

The onus is now firmly and strongly on brands to step up to this challenge, the report insists. Consumers firmly believe businesses should be about more than just profit, and they want sustainability to drive decision-making.

The pandemic has also raised expectations of brands in terms of civic leadership, which the report claims illustrates that dramatic change can be achieved almost overnight when the will is there. Some 75% of those surveyed say business responses to Covid have raised their expectations of them when it comes to helping fight some of the world’s biggest problems – like climate change.

“Regenerative” brands, that step up and show leadership, advocating for a positive impact across the three pillars of planet, people and prosperity will build resilience for the long-term and engage audiences, the report claims.

People and their wellbeing are now central to the sustainability debate – with growing focus on inclusion and equality. The events of 2020 have brought equality and social justice to the forefront, and brands will now need to consider these alongside environmental concerns.

Following the pandemic, consumers’ relationship with nature has also been reset, with a deeper understanding of how our wellbeing depends on that of the planet.

Wunderman Thompson Intelligence global director Marie Stafford commented: “If we are to have any hope of tackling climate change, we now need brands to step up and show real leadership. This means prioritising people, tackling social issues like poverty and inequality, which our research shows are inextricably linked with the climate question.

“Pioneering brands, who commit to being truly regenerative, aiming for a positive impact on people, planet and prosperity will reap the rewards. Those are the brands that will be more resilient, more aligned with people’s values and best-placed to tap the opportunities identified in our trends.”

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