You Need to Get Sustainable Because Customers Won’t Pay!

As per Monday’s post on Do as I Say, Don’t Do as I Do, while customers say they try to buy from companies with a good record on sustainability and ethics, but don’t always, the reality is that only 9% of UK customers and 16% of US customers rate ethical company/brand in their top 3 attributes, being considerably more concerned with value for money, price, and quality. Furthermore, while most customers say they will pay more to buy from a sustainable company, they won’t pay more than an extra 5%.

As a result, the inclination of most senior buyers might be to forego sustainability and ethics when sourcing and go for the supplier that provides the best value for money, quality, or price, especially since that’s what the average buyer wants. But this reactionist approach is the exact opposite of what you should be doing! In fact, you should be doubling down on sustainability efforts.

Consider what the average consumer wants to buy. Fashion. Electronics. Media. Now consider what these items are made of. Cotton. Rare earth Minerals. Paper. All of these items are in limited, decreasing, supply. Increased drought and increased need of limited farmland for food production are causing cotton prices to increase. Rare earth minerals are decreasing but demand in modern electronics gadgets is steadily increasing. And paper, well, there are only so many trees and some take decades to grow.

In other words, costs are going to go up — and, at some point, costs are going to go up significantly. At that point in time, the best strategic sourcing and negotiation skills in the world aren’t going to be worth a dime because you can’t source for less than cost, and if costs skyrocket because there is (much) more demand for the materials than there is supply, your costs skyrocket and your consumers go elsewhere.

But if you double down on sustainability, and source products that use alternative, more readily available, and if possible, renewable materials, from suppliers that focus on recycling and material recovery, then your costs will stay down while your competitors’ costs go up. That’s why, despite your inclination to follow your customers, you have to do a 180 in the other direction to make sure that you keep those customers as time moves on.