For retailers thinking of dialing back their sustainability practices during the pandemic, Ricardo Belmar has a warning:
"Consumers are not going to abandon their sustainability preferences. If anything, they've simply added health and safety to their top priority list."
Downplaying sustainability will actually hurt retailers by turning off consumers, Belmar told RetailWire. He should know; he makes his living analyzing consumer sentiment. He's a senior director and retail transformation specialist at the network performance company Infovista.
Data backs him up—and so does our experience at Cloverly. In a survey this spring by the global management and consulting firm Kearney, nearly half of US consumers said the pandemic had made them more—not less—concerned about environment.
That concern intensified during the pandemic itself, according to Food Dive, which reported on the survey.
Kearney conducted the first part of its survey on March 6, when the pandemic was starting to disrupt daily life worldwide. At that point, 78% of consumers said they took the environment into consideration at least sometimes when making purchases. That compared with 71% who said so in 2019.
When Kearney surveyed again on April 10, a few weeks further into coronavirus-triggered lockdowns, the percentage actually went up, to 83%.
Carbon offsets during the pandemic
At Cloverly, we've seen that consumers are still voting with their wallets in favor of sustainability. We give ecommerce customers the option of paying a little extra to offset the carbon impact of their shipping. As measured in pounds of carbon that we've offset on behalf of consumers, May, June, and July have been our biggest months ever.
"Pandemic or not, consumers care about their personal impact on the environment and are energized to make a difference," said Anthony Oni, Cloverly co-founder and CEO. "We give them the opportunity to do that. And they're certainly taking advantage of that opportunity.
"In tumultuous times, people look for ways that they can feel in control. One thing they can take ownership of is their carbon impact. When consumers opt to green their shipping through Cloverly, we show them exactly what offset project they're supporting. We've found that they really appreciate that.
"Consumers want the companies they patronize to care about the environment just as much as they do. And they want transparency."
Professional service firm PwC found in a global survey taken before the pandemic that 43% of respondents expected businesses to be accountable for their environmental impact.
A US survey in late March and early April by the strategy consultant Strategy& (part of PwC) asked about the unintended environmental benefits—such as cleaner air and water—that have resulted from pandemic-related business slowdowns. Of those questioned, 75% said companies should try to preserve some of those benefits.
"In our 11 years of surveying consumers around the globe, we have never documented such a clear convergence of themes around transparency, sustainability, and social consciousness," said Oz Ozturk, global consumer markets advisory leader for PwC UK.
"At such a pivotal moment, the need for consumer-facing companies to establish trust with potential customers could not be any clearer."
At RetailWire, Paula Rosenblum pointed out that buying power is transitioning from the older baby boomers and Generation X to younger consumers: millennials and Generation Z. "And they care a lot more about the environment."
Rosenblum is managing partner for RSR Research. That demographic shift led her to this blunt assessment: "I think if a retailer is not making an effort to be color-blind and environmentally aware, it's a dead man walking."
Carbon-neutral shipping with Cloverly
Cloverly provides an easy way for ecommerce consumers to purchase carbon offsets and achieve carbon-neutral shipping for their orders, at no cost to the store owner. For details, visit cloverly.com/how-it-works. Shopify store owners can get our Shopify shipping app by clicking here. If you have a Magento store, click here.