What is real customer maturity, and how do environmental concerns affect purchasing behaviour?
In a world experiencing intense pressure on environmental and ecological health, the greatest force for positive change on the environment is the buying behaviour of the world’s consumers.
The cumulative purchasing decisions of billions of individuals and businesses across global economies will determine whether our environmental problems improve or continue to deteriorate. From the sourcing of raw materials to the manufacturing, packaging and distribution of products to the management of waste, environmental solutions begin with the commitment of consumers.
Today, customers look to embrace more eco-friendly policies
A recent survey of business customers in France, Denmark and the UK, by Antalis in partnership with IFOP in 2021, produced some encouraging results. The survey canvassed 100 business packaging consumers in both Denmark and the U.K and 102 in France about their engagement in ethically-oriented business practices and the degree to which environmental issues impact their purchasing decisions.
The companies’ lines of business included retail and wholesale trade, food and beverage production, machinery & equipment, electronics, E-business and transportation.
Of the 302 respondents in the survey, 60% had a corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy in place or were in the process of developing one. With CSR policies more common among larger companies, the percentage was higher in France (65%) where the size of companies in the survey trended larger than in Denmark and the U.K.
Currently, 44% of the companies surveyed provide environmental information online about their products and services. As to their own perception of their success in tackling environmental issues, 57% of companies considered themselves average while 27% considered themselves advanced - with the proportion higher (38%) for companies with a CSR policy in place or in development. Just 16% of respondents felt they were late in addressing environmental issues.
There was little difference among the three countries when it came to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their environmental plans. While 21% said it had slowed down their efforts to tackle environmental issues, 70% said that it had no impact on their plans. Just 9% of companies said they had accelerated their environmental plans since the beginning of the pandemic.
Today, Purchasers become Eco-friendly
Among the criteria that influence customer purchasing decisions for packaging, product price remains the most important factor. More than half of companies (51%) said that price competitiveness was the most important criteria in their decision-making and 87% overall cited it as important. A remarkable finding of the survey, however, was that the environmental friendliness of packaging product was as important to buyers as product functionality. The two criteria ranked second highest (43%) among all criteria cited, significantly surpassing factors like the breadth of product range (35%) and supplier reputation (26%).
While price remains a key concern for purchasing managers, nearly two thirds of companies surveyed said they were open to the idea of paying more for product that is eco-friendly.
Antalis customers are already considering a range of environmental issues when they buy packaging products. The average customer surveyed across the three countries used more than five environment-related criteria to inform their purchasing decisions. The most common factors cited were waste reduction (55%), product recyclability (54%), and use of recycled materials (52%). The use of renewable materials (45%) and reduction of the use of non-renewable materials (40%) like plastic scored high as well.
Survey respondents also flagged the growing importance of packaging product origin. 49% said they considered the issue important or very important today and 68% said they expected it to be more important in the future. Companies with CSR policies tended to see the issue as a bigger concern than those without them.
Key learnings of the survey
Consumers of packaging products in the UK, France and Denmark take environmental problems seriously. That is clear from the number of companies that have or are developing CSR policies and from the number who regularly use environmental criteria in making their purchasing decisions. The choices these companies make, however, are necessarily in the context of a competitive marketplace.
They may see environmental friendliness as an important factor in their decisions, but cost will likely remain a top consideration for them. Eco-friendly packaging solutions must also be economically viable for business customers.
For Virginie Mallet, Packaging Marketing Director EMEA at Antalis: “This study shows that companies are already engaged in tackling environmental issues and will keep doing so and that’s a good thing. As a leading distributor of packaging solutions in Europe, we have placed the environment at the heart of our strategy and are committed to meeting our customers' needs in terms of sustainability, especially their high expectations regarding the transition towards a better and improved circular economy. Therefore, we prioritise FSC or PEFC certified materials and have created the Antrak platform to reinforce the traceability and responsibility of our supply chain while always favoring recyclable packaging”.