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Otago research finds consumer’s sustainable intentions thwarted


Monday 27 November 2017 4:53pm

Otago Business School researchers have found New Zealand consumers have difficulty finding information on how to shop sustainably. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

More and more New Zealanders are keen to act sustainably, but can’t because producers aren’t providing enough product information to guide them.

University of Otago Business School researchers have been examining the disparity between what consumers say they would like to do and what they actually do, studying the link between labelling information and the intention to buy organic products in New Zealand.

Their research suggests that only three percent of consumers are currently putting their money where their mouth is and making purchasing decisions based on the sustainability of the product, although an estimated 30 per cent now say they want to act more sustainably when they are shopping.

Marketing Associate Professor Robert Aitken and his team found almost three quarters of those studied said they need more product-specific information at point-of-purchase to help them act more sustainably.

Marketing Associate Professor Robert Aitken.

“People wanting to buy sustainably are aware of the wider issues but want to know about the specific ingredients, the packaging and what efforts the producers and suppliers have made to make their products sustainable. They want to know if the product is sourced responsibly and ethically,” he says.

“Consumers want genuine, credible information on the label. They don’t want a company to give them “greenwash” sustainability messages; they are actively asking if some products are as environmentally sensitive as their producers portray them.

“They also want producers to actively help consumers to be more sustainable – such as what to do with the product packaging.”

This gives producers and suppliers a clear message.

“Producers have a social responsibility to convey meaningful information, particularly given the current lack of regulation on product information. If consumers ask for information on the quality of their product, surely the company has a duty to provide it,” he says.

He suggests, therefore, that New Zealand companies need to consider a sustainability framework and to incorporate sustainability as part of their overall service.

“This will get them back in touch with what consumers actually want.”


Dr Rob Aitken
Marketing Department
University of Otago

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