Market research agency Impact asked 4,000 UK consumers to rank 130 brands, including 49 retailers, on their sustainability efforts across social responsibility, environmental friendliness, financial responsibility, and ethics – with The Body Shop, M&S Home and Waitrose topping the table.
According to the survey, The Body Shop consistently demonstrates high performance and commitment to sustainability. It stands out as the strongest retailer in the study especially for their ethical practices in sourcing products and ingredients, and for caring about animal welfare.
Tom Gould, managing director at Impact, said: “We recognise the vital role of retail in driving sustainability forward. It’s encouraging to see brands like The Body Shop leading the way, showing a strong commitment to sustainable practices.”
Entering the top three this year is Waitrose, propelled by their brand revamp emphasising quality and sourcing credentials, “Food to Feel Good About”. Their strategic focus on communicating sourcing credentials boosts perceptions regarding their support for British suppliers and the availability of sustainable products.
In contrast to other retailers, the brands at the bottom are perceived as not delivering high-quality products. This perception reflects a belief that these products have a limited lifespan and are disposed of quickly. Impact said Sports Direct still grapples with the fallout from past controversies surrounding zero-hour contracts and paying staff below the minimum wage. None of these brands are considered to have a clear environmental agenda, with only two in five consumers expressing trust in the sustainability claims made by these brands.
Furthermore, ecommerce brands face unique challenges in showcasing their sustainability efforts compared to brick-and-mortar retailers; 56% of UK shoppers say it’s harder to know about a store’s green efforts when shopping on the internet than when they visit a store in person. The absence of physical interaction makes it harder to visually display sustainability initiatives, and the vast variety of products available online can overwhelm consumers seeking sustainable options.
Tackling consumer scepticism towards greenwashing poses a challenge for ecommerce giants, this requires clear and transparent communication, which becomes more complex in the digital realm due to the absence of personal interaction. For example, 81% of people claim they know something about Amazon’s sustainability initiatives, but only 52% believe the claims being made.
Gould added: “The overall picture highlights a significant need for broader industry change. Sourcing, quality (linked to products being long-lasting) and transparency are all factors that brands need to get right to enhance their standing amongst increasingly conscious consumers and ultimately build trust and loyalty.”