"We're seeing a broad gap in the way consumers and companies think about and approach sustainability," said Laurie Demeritt, CEO, The Hartman Group. "That very few consumers today can name what they consider to be a sustainable company underscores the fact that so many corporate social responsibility and sustainability activities go relatively unnoticed by consumers."
The question of why consumers are not buying more sustainable products has haunted companies in the consumer packaged goods industry for several years.
"In the world of sustainability, there is a widening chasm between what consumers say they want and what they actually buy. On the one hand, consumers say they want to be sustainable and they want companies to behave sustainably," explained Demeritt. "On the other hand, when companies do take action, consumers don't always give them the credit they might expect. There are mechanisms underlying why consumers don't always prioritize sustainability in their purchase behavior."
The report details how the consumer definition of sustainability has broadened, including:
• The number of consumers reporting they are familiar with the term sustainability has grown from 69% in 2010 to 74% today.
• The number of consumers stating they can identify a sustainable product has also grown, from 21% to 23%, but at a smaller rate, meaning the gap has actually increased since 2010
"The research uncovered the fact that how consumers think about product categories is more relevant to "the gap" than how they think about companies," added Demeritt.