Latest News

Breaking Down Barriers to Environmental Sustainability

By Sheri Hinish | Global Lead, IBM Consulting Sustainability Services
April 21, 2022

As environmental urgency ramps up for climate action, companies can do more to support consumers’ sustainable choices Environmental sustainability has become a global imperative. As the climate...

As environmental urgency ramps up for climate action, companies can do more to support consumers’ sustainable choices

Environmental sustainability has become a global imperative. As the climate emergency heightens amid governments’ new ESG regulations, and investors call for companies to improve transparency of environmental and social governance practices, consumers are taking notice and demanding change. The consequences of climate change have become more dire, and people’s desire to live and work more sustainably are translating into big shifts in behavior from the way we work, buy, and choose in everyday consumption.

IBM’s research shows consumers’ decisions demonstrate their commitment to action. They are willing to change their household habits, spend more, change employers, and adjust their investment portfolios—all to ensure their lifestyle aligns with their sustainability values. But consumers need help from companies to make the most sustainable choices possible.

Meeting the consumers sustainability demands

In a survey of more than 16,000 people globally, over half (51%) of respondents say environmental sustainability is more important to them today than it was 12 months ago. Seventy-seven percent of consumers surveyed shared a desire to make more sustainable choices at home; and half said they paid more — an average of 59% more — for socially responsible branded products; and sixty-two percent of personal investors say their portfolio takes environmental sustainability into account. These insights suggest sustainability is a competitive edge for business.

Our study also shows sustainability can give purpose-driven employers an edge in the talent market. A majority of respondents say they are more willing to apply for and accept jobs from organizations that are considered environmentally sustainable. However, only 21% of respondents consider their current employers to be sustainable, which could translate to a major flight risk. Thirty-five percent of respondents who changed jobs last year accepted a job with an employer they consider to be environmentally sustainable, and roughly one in three say they accepted a lower salary to work for sustainable or socially responsible organizations. Employees are making values-based tradeoffs for a better world, and the companies they buy from and work for should take heed and do the same to meet consumer needs.

How can your business help consumers be more sustainable?

Companies must break down barriers to meet this sharp increase in consumer, investor and employee demand. A few tangible action items include:

  • Enhance communications: Increase transparency and communicate progress toward sustainability goals.
  • Embrace the circular economy: Educate consumers on how products and packaging can be reused, reclaimed or recycled.
  • Improve product quality: Use renewable energy, recycled materials, and re-engineered packaging for new product design and development.
  • Increase value for money: Offer incentives for consumers to reduce their carbon footprint; leverage analytics to improve efficiency while reducing carbon emissions and waste—and pass savings on.
  • Boost collaboration: Insist on more robust environmental commitments and actions across your supply chain.

There are a number of nonprofit organizations and business consortiums that can be a viable resource for companies looking to take steps towards becoming a more sustainable business. IBM is currently working with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the Partnership for Carbon Transparency (PACT) to help businesses better identify, measure and track Scope 3 emissions and use technology to tackle emissions reduction.

Consumers are looking to companies to be true stewards of change to lead with purpose, and for this commitment to be demonstrated in sustainable choices. By paving a clearer, more accessible path to responsible consumption, executives can do even more to build a sustainable future—for the planet, for society, for their customers, and for their businesses.

Article Categories