Kiwi consumers are voting green with our wallets

Last updated 18:32 06/10/2017

Some shoppers are showing a preference to put more money into small business owners' pockets.

Companies are becoming more honest about their supply chain and carbon footprint in an effort to win over consumers, Kath Dewar says.

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Shoppers are putting their money where their mouth is and increasingly choosing to buy from companies that claim they benefit society and the environment, a marketer says. 

GoodSense Marketing managing director Kath Dewar said it was a trend that marketing departments had noticed, forcing carbon-creating companies to tell customers about their environmentally savvy plans. 

"It is a major significant commercial trend. People want to understand that the food in their mouths and the clothes on their back are ideally doing good for environment."

This week Air New Zealand released its annual 2017 sustainability report, outlining plans to lower its environmental impact such as electric charging planes, and recycling untouched snacks and drinks to reduce inflight waste. 

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In October last year, the airline introduced a reforestation donation option for passengers to offset some plane carbon emissions when booking flights online. The report said the donations of a few dollars per flight had offset the carbon emissions of 40,000 flights so far.

Dewar said large companies, like Air New Zealand, were making their supply chains more transparent and were communicating what environmental problems they still had to fix.

It fed the business leaders' social conscious and paid off financially, she said. 

"The smart ones realise investments that reduce the cost of operations, and create a good story to tell, will be the businesses that survive in the future."

Dewar said the conscious consumer trend was forcing businesses to take a stand for or against the environment. 

"It is becoming increasingly difficult to sit on the fence with this."

Countdown's announcement on Wednesday to phase out plastic bags from 184 of its stores by the end of 2018 proved it had become a competition. 

​But she said shoppers needed to be aware of "green wash" marketing - companies staking false claims that they were benefiting the environment.

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Dewar said New Zealand's tough advertising laws made it hard for companies to fake it, but many still did. 

Dewar said there was also a growing demand to buy from socially conscious businesses. 

"We have not seen much [social sustainability] yet, but what we will see more of is businesses who are employers of choice and doing things to support their workforce."

This year Spark and New Zealand Rugby acquired the Rainbow Tick, a certification that proves it does not discriminate based on people's sexual preference. 

The delayed focus on social sustainability could be because social good was harder to prove than environmental efforts. 

Consumers had already kicked off the trend with their preference to buy locally sourced food and clothing, she said. 

Dewar said there was less "social wash" marketing in New Zealand, like Dole's banana 'ethical choice' sticker in 2012 that claimed it cared for its workers but was removed after Oxfam investigated its supply chain.

She urged consumers to question the companies they bought from to pressure them into becoming more socially and environmentally responsible.

"The biggest power we have is to choose whether we buy something or not."

- Stuff


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