2024 Better Futures: 3 opportunities for business to harness 

Jay Crangle, Head of ESG 

On 22 March, Kantar and SBC launched the 15th edition of the Better Futures Report, which tracks consumer perspectives on environmental and social issues over time. The results of this year’s report revealed an ever-growing group of consumers calling on the business community to take more action and be more transparent. 

The fact that the report has now been running for a decade and a half presents a great opportunity to reflect on how business can best use its findings.  

As one of my fellow speakers at the launch said after hearing a preview of the results – so what? What is the opportunity for business if consumers are still essentially saying they want more sustainable products and services, but can’t (or don’t want to) pay for it? What is a business supposed to do? 

A great laying down of the (ethically produced) gauntlet.  

It’s easy to think that meeting consumers’ expectations is nigh on impossible, given they want more but for less. But when we unpack some of the nuances that sit behind consumers’ perceptions, a number of opportunities for business emerge. 

1. Bake sustainability into the core of your business 

Building sustainability into the heart of your business model and core strategy is a huge economic opportunity. As we’ve seen time and again, those businesses who do this are the ones who have longevity in the market and long-term economic success. 

Consumers are calling out for businesses to be genuine about their sustainability efforts. In fact, this year’s report shows there’s a great deal of cynicism amongst New Zealand consumers regarding business’ motivations behind engaging with sustainability. 

By putting it right at the heart of the way in which they operate, businesses have the opportunity to place themselves in a strong position to respond to these concerns by ensuring their efforts are evidenced and genuine. 

2. Demonstrate real leadership 

Business has a powerful role in shaping consumer wants and needs.  

You only have to look back to diamond manufacturer De Beer’s 1950s ad campaign to see the power of transformative branding. Up to that point, diamond engagement rings were not commonplace – but through clever marketing, they became something that consumers aspired to. 

Businesses have the same opportunity to take a leadership position now to highlight sustainable purchasing decisions as appealing and aspirational. Their messaging will shape consumers’ choices and support them to bridge the gap between their values and their purchasing actions. 

3. Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth  

Businesses can demonstrate progress is being made by society on sustainability issues. 

At the launch of Better Futures 2024, someone asked a question about whether it was better to define climate change as a climate crisis.  

While it can be useful to use the word ‘crisis’ to convene urgency, the report findings signal it is even more useful to demonstrate to consumers what you’re doing about it. This includes communicating not only your successes, but importantly, areas of challenge where progress still needs to be made – consumers can then choose businesses that take these issues seriously and can recognise that they have key role to play through their purchasing decisions. 

To summarise, this year’s Better Futures results reveal an opportunity for businesses to show leadership, put sustainability at the heart of what they do, and communicate authentically and transparently with their customers. 

To be clear, this stuff is far from easy. Across the SBC membership, we’re seeing businesses increasingly looking to tackle the more complex areas of sustainability, including harder to abate emissions and building more meaningful connections with their communities. 

Consumers continue to signal to us that this stuff matters to them. By responding to these concerns, businesses can shape the future of consumer decision-making, as well as be able to meet and exceed the needs of their customers for more sustainable products and services. 

The opportunity to do more, to say more, of substance, is huge. 

2 Apr, 2024

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