Corporations need to get on the sustainability trend if they want to succeed in pleasing consumers, says Scot Case, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability at the National Retail Federation.
Sustainability is in high demand, as 70% of consumers consider the sustainability of brands before purchasing a product. But consumers are desperate, and Case says that purchasing behavior rarely reflects these values. However, younger consumers are pushing for a more environmentally conscious future, Case adds, and they want a company’s global consciousness to be at the forefront of their shopping experience. After all, he concludes, most of the current workforce is Generation X and Millennials – both demographics that are driving a modern retail market with a globally conscious, personal touch.
“Younger generations expect the private sector to solve global problems,” Case tells the National Retail Federation blog, “because they watched businesses respond to COVID-19 with a speed and agility that few thought possible.”
The first sustainability trend to follow is the drive for transparency, which will be achieved by consumer-controlled artificial intelligence (AI), Case says. While AI is now used for identifying consumer trends, working through supply chain disruptions, managing inventory, and quantifying sustainability impacts, there’s still more it can do. Case believes that consumers will be able to deploy their own AI-driven software to price check, assess stock, and research the sustainability of products. These programs, he says, will ensure transparency from companies by asking sophisticated questions about where products are from, how they’re sourced, and how they’re made. And if there’s one thing that consumers love, he adds, its transparency.
This forced transparency, Case says, is good for sustainability accountability. Whether it’s forced or voluntary, transparency will cause companies to reexamine their own production and address consumer concerns in a public sphere. As a result, this will allow consumers to purchase products they feel good about instead of what’s the easiest and most available.