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When we talk about sustainable consumers, most of the conversation has been around Millennials and the ever-growing impact of Gen-Z. Far too often though, the preferences of Gen X and Baby Boomers are left out, even though they have continued to have a high-level purchasing power and, often, much more disposable income than their younger counterparts; i.e. the majority of prestige consumers.

In our most recent Insights Report, which we conducted with our partner, and fellow B Corp, MaCher: Sustainability & Consumerism, we looked at consumer behaviors and preferences across multiple generations (Baby Boomers to Gen Z). Ninety-four percent of adult consumers said that they consider it important to live a more sustainable lifestyle and, in some cases, the older generations are doing more; Baby Boomers and Gen X are two times more likely to actively reduce their use of single use plastics.

Words Most Likely To Influence Consumers

Across all demographics, “recycled” was the most resonant term, with the exception of Millennials, where it ranked second behind the term “green”. “Sustainable” and “reusable” were a strong second and third for Baby Boomers and Gen X, with 57% of Baby Boomers reacting to the latter.

This shows that packaging is the most immediate area of visibility for the majority of consumers and it would be wise for brands to focus on implementing PCR (Post Consumer Recycled) packaging in place of virgin plastics or opting for more recyclable alternatives such as glass or metal, biodegradable materials like paper, 100% bio-based materials, or refillables. But packaging is just the tip of the impact iceberg.

“Fair Trade” resonated with over 37% of all demographics, with 51% of Baby Boomers saying that it influences their decision making and 42% of both Millennials and Gen Z listing “organic” as a key identifier for their purchase decisions. That said, changes that are made further upstream in the supply chain can have a much larger impact on the planet as a whole and should not only be a focus, but and should be considered a joint focus, alongside communicating product benefits in marketing materials and campaigns.

For example, regenerative agriculture for product ingredients, sustainable production methods that work to reduce emissions and water use, and fair trade and wages to keep communities out of poverty all contribute to the well-being of the planet in a significant way. These changes should be addressed and spoken about with regularity.

Gift With Purchase With A Purpose

We all know that GWPs have been an effective part of beauty industry sales and marketing strategies over the years, but research suggests that product packaging can have a strong influence on current consumer motivation to seek these bonuses.

Sixty-five percent of adults said that they would be excited to receive a GWP that was made from recycled vs. virgin materials and that number jumped to 70% when the material used was recycled ocean plastics (plastic removed from the ocean). Additionally, 62% of those surveyed would prefer instructions for end-of-life steps for their gifts–how to recycle or repair them once they were done–and 58% showed an appreciation for information about the workers who made the item.

Other Key Takeaways

In addition to what influences them, consumers also shared their overall feelings on sustainability in general, stating that they’re often willing to pay more to do the right thing.

  • 43% of consumers wish there was more information about living sustainably
  • 84 % say it’s important to buy sustainable products
  • Millennials and Gen Z are two to three times more likely than older consumers to be vegetarian/vegan and to ride a bike instead of driving
  • 60% of consumers say reusable products are more sustainable and 43% would pay more for reusable products, with women being 23% more likely than men to pay more
  • Baby Boomers & Gen Z are 20% more likely than any other age group to say they’d pay more for environmentally-friendly or reusable products

Education In Messaging Is Key 

To that end, brands should include education on the impactful measures that they are taking and should consider transparency as part of their marketing approach. Eighty percent of adults believe that companies have an obligation to disclose their environmental impact such as their carbon footprint, and 90% believe companies should look for ways to make their products or services more sustainable. Sixty-three percent of Baby Boomers (the highest of any sampled generation) believe that brands need to openly share how they make their products and one in three adults say they’ve stopped buying one or more brands after learning that the company’s practices and values didn’t match their own.

While consumers may not know it all, the appetite to learn is there. Once they’re informed, they’ll add it to their decision-making matrix when they’re ready to purchase.

Factoring in the new U.S. administration’s key climate change policy, look for awareness-driven action to gain momentum as it becomes a larger part of the public consciousness, and for consumers to continue to act with their wallet at an increasing rate.

About the Author: Jason Parkin is the Founder and President of Compose[d], a digital creative services agency based in NYC. He and the company are passionate about working with modern brands that “do well by doing good” and traditional brands to help them incorporate sustainability practices.