Five Questions & Answers. Retail Institute Scandinavia on Consumers’ Demand for Sustainability.

Across industries and companies, sustainability has made its way to the top. Danish consultancy Retail Institute Scandinavia knows this better than most. With their fingers firmly placed on consumers’ pulse, they know which and when trends make hearts beat faster or flatlines.

To dig deeper into the matter, we sat down with Director at Retail Institute Scandinavia, Dorte Wimmer, for a talk on how the perception of sustainability has changed according to consumers and companies, and how brands can act accordingly.

Everland, “How do you define sustainability?”

Dorte Wimmer, “When researching for my latest book Refresh Retail 2.0, it became very clear that for the majority of the consumers, sustainability is a broad term. It covers many different aspects, from waste management and buying biodynamic products to a responsible production line and working environment.

One way of approaching sustainability could be to talk about taking responsibility. As a consumer, you consider which groceries and products you purchase, and as a company, you consider how to optimise your production considering the climate, transportation and use of materials.

Sustainability is mostly about taking responsibility in how we act, consume and produce in order to all make a contribution in taking care of the planet – both as a consumer and a company.”

“Sustainability has become the talk of the town. Which trends do you find the most interesting?”

“Two trends have caught my attention. Firstly, the activism part of sustainability. The large majority of consumers want to make a difference. According to our surveys in the book “Refresh Retail 2.0”, six out of ten Danes say that sustainability is important to them. Previously, you placed the responsibility on the companies, but now, consumers also take on the responsibility themselves. They feel they need to act.

This has its roots in the lack of trust. Actually, consumers don’t have faith in companies being able to save the planet. Consumers believe they need to take an active position in order to take care of our planet. This is a huge shift from previous years and generations

Secondly, what I find interesting is the attitude towards sustainability. In one of our surveys, we asked a young demographic – Generation Z (15 to 18 years old) – whether sustainability was important to them, and it was. Then we asked them if they would pay more for products made in a more sustainable way. The answer was they wouldn’t pay more. This was very interesting to us so we asked them to elaborate. And the conclusion was that they expect companies to take care of the environment. So, in a few years, it won’t be a parameter for differentiation but will become a market condition.

It is very important for companies to get started on this right now. Or else you will be out of business when Generation Z grows up.”

“Previously, brands longed for consumers’ attention. Today, it seems consumers are longing for companies’ attention. What’s your take on this?”

“Today, the relationship between brand and consumer has turned upside down. In the ‘old days’, companies were in control. They decided what to sell, where to sell and at which prize. Now, the consumers are in control and the tables have turned.

Actually, it is a great advantage to be a small company now. By being small, you gain greater credibility from customers. The consumers are in control and they have high demands for companies.”

“What changes in consumer expectations do you believe will have the biggest impact on retailers in the coming decade?”

The fact that sustainability is becoming mainstream and a market condition. At the moment, many companies are trying to position themselves through sustainability and that is still beneficial and possible for some time.

But it is becoming more urgent to make sure that your production is sustainable. Because in a few years, you won’t be able to sell any products if your production isn’t sustainable.”

“What makes you optimistic about the future in regards to sustainability?”

“Lots of things – both from small and large companies. Sustainability has truly become top of mind and is dealt with in a very serious manner, as it should be. This has created great conditions for innovation and ignited a bunch of new ideas. That makes me very optimistic in regards to sustainability.

Many great things are happening at the moment. It won’t be one miraculous thing that saves the world but rather a multitude of actions that help drive sustainability and helps us reach new levels.

Also, the awareness of this grave matter gives me hope. With Greta Thunberg taking a lead and activating the young generation because they can more easily relate to her rather than some large organisation.

All in all, I’m very optimistic about the future.”

Visit Retail Institute Scandinavia’s website for more information.