Why Sustainability Verification is Important
What is Sustainability Verification?
Today, global consumers are rising their commitment to sustainability and as a result, requiring more sustianability information to help their choices. It is researched that 88% of consumers want brands to help them make a difference, while 81% of consumers expect brands to talk about sustainability. However, 75% of consumers find it difficult to research and confused in what to trust due to concerning issues around greenwashing. Sustainability verification investigates, evaluates, and confirms sustainability claims made by companies. The verification gives companies another layer of approval and allowss to build trust with various stakeholders. To better understand this, let’s delve into how verifying your conscious brand is beneficial and crucial for you and your brand in the current sustainability market.
Why is it important?
Evidence has shown that sustainability has a significant impact on consumer preferences and purchasing decisions. A joint study by McKinsey & Company and NielsenIQ found that in two-thirds of food, beverage, household, and personal care product categories, there was a direct relationship between products with ESG-related claims and their rate of faster growth in retail sales when compared to products with no such claims. It was also discovered that conscious consumption can be observable across all income levels, ages, races, and geographical locations when buying products with ESG-related labels. In our ConsiderBeyond Consumer Insight Report, we were able to conclude that consumers worldwide are seeking platforms or guidelines for conscious brands and products as well as desiring to be informed about sustainable consumer products and the latest sustainability standards. Additionally, brand transparency about sustainable practices and impact are highly valued by consumers, going hand in hand with the importance of preventing greenwashing and greenhushing practices such as terminology or misleading sustainable claims. All in all consumers are advocating for open and honest companies!
Unfortunately, due to untransparent business practices up until now, a trust gap between consumers and companies has developed. Only 25% of surveyed consumers trust environmental claims made by fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands. Yet, trust is a major influence in consumers’ purchase decisions. Brands can stay ahead of any greenwashing assumptions by being forthright with the information they share, practicing transparency, and following current regulatory changes. While credible certifications are an essential way for brands to provide proof for their sustainability initiatives in key areas like company, labor, and products, Verifications serve as one way to give conscious brands the opportunity to communicate their commitment to legitimizing their sustainability claims by consolidating certified and uncertified claims and having them evaluated by a third party. Providing assurance that a company is meeting certain sustainability standards and milestones, verification negates the possibility of greenwashing and greenhushing. In this case, brands undergo detailed assessments to prove that they adhere to responsible environmental practices and/or have strong workplace policies in place, which communicates to consumers that the company is legitimately dedicated to a positive environment and social impact in practice and not just in theory.
With that being said, sustainability verification is becoming an increasingly important, standard expectation for consumer-facing brands in recent years, as proving eco-friendly and sustainable practices gives brands a competitive edge in the market by showing consumers that they are actively contributing to sustainable production processes. As sustainability can be quite confusing and difficult concept to navigate for many consumers, providing independent third-party verification of a company or products can holistically demonstrate to customers that a brand takes sustainability seriously as part of their operations - something which more and more shoppers have come to expect while purchasing from mainstream brands and searching for conscious brands that align with their own sustainability-based values and lifestyle goals.
What are the benefits of verification?
Identify strengths and weaknesses - Verification can help businesses identify areas in which they need to improve their sustainability efforts as well as recognize successes they have achieved. It is a step toward assessing how the company can increase the efficiency of materials, waste production, and transportation, all while being conscious of the environmental and social costs of their business.
Demonstrate trust - A layer of verification helps brands communicate their past and current sustainability efforts to different stakeholders, including investors, retailers, and consumers. For smaller brands, this can be a good starting point to understand the opportunities for improvement and allow them to set actionable targets for the future. In turn, adding an element of transparency that allows brands to establish a strong relationship with consumers may also enhance their brand image and recognition.
Gain credibility - Verification communicates to consumers that a third party has performed the due diligence on the company, which reduces the risk of greenwashing and brands making environmental claims without much evidence. The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report indicates that consumers are most likely to believe information about a brand through earned and owned media.
In short, verification helps brands demonstrate that they are making an effort toward normalizing sustainability practices in their respective industries. Modern consumers who are deeply concerned about the global environmental challenges and societal problems that could be addressed in part by businesses worldwide. Verifications are also starting to become a requirement in regions like the EU. The Green Claims Directive proposed in March 2023 indicated that environmental claims and labels will be subject to more stringent transparency and verification requirements. Thus, with the rapidly evolving landscape of governmental regulations and consumer habits, it is important for brands to stay updated on the latest changes and seek solutions.
How can ConsiderBeyond help brands looking for verification?
Our verification service goes hand in hand with the ConsiderBeyond framework for evaluation. We holistically evaluate brands of differing sizes using both quantifiable and descriptive data. Our framework identifies excellence in environmental and social impact across a wide range of attributes, from circularity and carbon footprint measurement to clean ingredients and eco-packaging. We also use existing third-party certifications that are able to provide verification for brands and/or products on a more granular level as guidelines for our evaluation.
Our values as a sustainability platform translate directly into the services that we offer, which focus on transparency and knowledge sharing. While executive bodies like the European Commission are proposing regulations to protect consumers from misleading labels and improve the environmental performance of products, we want to do our part as a private sector entity to deliver effective solutions to companies that are committed to promoting sustainability and helping consumers make informed decisions. Both private and public action are needed to collectively raise the standards of conscious living and consumption and meet consumer demands for sustainable goods and services.
- McKinsey & Co and NielsenIQ study 2023
- ConsiderBeyond Consumer Insights Report 2023
- Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report 2021
- EU Green Claims Directive proposal
- EU Ecodesign for sustainable products proposal
- Drapers Sustainability and the Consumer 2022 report