Opinion: Brands need to do more to convince Asian consumers buying sustainable products

Mike Hughes, Head of Research and Insight at FMCG Gurus, rounds up a survey conducted with 7,000 consumers

Consumers in Asia-Pacific are concerned about the state of the environment and the consequences this may have for future generations. At the same time however, consumers admit that their purchasing habits are not the most environmentally friendly.

Moreover, consumers are more likely to associate environmental protection with being the responsibility of big brands rather than the individual. To help counter this, brands need to look for ways to ensure that environmentally friendly claims have more of an influence on buying behavior in the region. This can be done by making the link between sustainable practices and taste and health benefits.

A total of 62 percent of consumers in Asia-Pacific say that they are concerned about the state of the environment, with 57 percent saying that damage done to the environment is irreversible. These are the findings of 7,000 consumers surveyed in Asia-Pacific in Q3 2019 by FMCG Gurus. However, despite these concerns, consumers can still have a passive attitude towards acting in a sustainable manner. Indeed, a total of 64 percent of consumers in the region believe that protecting the environment is more the responsibility of big brands rather than the individual.

Moreover, despite concerns about the environment, consumers admit that their shopping habits are not always the most environmentally friendly. For instance, a total of 39 percent of consumers admit that they regularly buy less environmentally friendly products because they are cheaper. Meanwhile, a total of 43 percent say that they have still purchased products even though they have believed the environmental claims made to be misleading. Finally, 38 percent of consumers in Asia-Pacific say that they will regularly purchase less sustainable products if they deem them to be tastier.

Concerns are genuinely concerned about the state of the environment, particularly as they see changes to ecological systems. However, the reality is that consumers tend to adopt a more “me-centric” approach to buying food and drink and will tend to prioritise their own needs over the wider environment. At a time when consumers have high levels of self-entitlement and are concerned about their health and rising product prices, sustainability can become less of a priority. As such, consumers expect brands and manufacturers to take the lead when it comes to environmental initiatives – especially as they can sometimes associate environmental damage with corporate greed.

When it comes to brands, the environmental initiative that consumers most want to see is the development of initiatives that make recycling easier (67 percent). However, if brands are going to encourage consumers to take a more proactive approach to acting in a sustainable manner, they need to look for ways to make environmentally friendly products more appealing. This means not simply being reliant on sustainability claims to influence purchasing habits but instead, making the direct link between ethical and environmental initiatives and consumer benefits such as improved taste and healthiness.