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CGS Survey Reveals Sustainability Is Driving Demand and Customer Loyalty

CGS, a global provider of business applications, enterprise learning and outsourcing services, today announced the findings from its 2019 Retail and Sustainability Survey. The results showed that more than two-thirds of the respondents consider sustainability when making a purchase and are willing to pay more for sustainable products. Despite being a relatively new buying group, Gen Z shoppers make up some of the most conscious buyers, with 68 percent having made an eco-friendly purchase in the past year.

CGS surveyed over 1,000 U.S. individuals (ages 18-65+) on how sustainable products and business practices are driving their buying preferences. Despite price still being a big factor in purchasing decisions, consumers are putting an emphasis on sustainability, and are also increasingly focused on shopping with brands whose mission they care about.

Key findings from the survey include:

Buyers want sustainable products; and over one-third will pay 25% more for them

Across the U.S., businesses are taking action to implement more eco-friendly processes and products. For example, Patagonia developed Woolyester, a material that blends wool, polyester and nylon to use approximately 50 percent of waste materials. The reason for this eco-friendly trend? It is what consumers want. Nearly 70 percent of CGS survey respondents said that sustainability is at least “somewhat important” to them when making a purchase and 47 percent would pay more for a sustainable product.

Brands must revamp their strategies for cultivating customer loyalty

Brands are constantly looking for ways to retain customers – and with good reason. Studies have shown that customers that continue to support a brand over time will spend 67 percent more than new customers. But what’s driving brand loyalty? According to CGS survey findings, consumers are most likely to return to a brand for the product’s quality. However, the second highest reason consumers return to a brand is its sustainable/ethical business practices. Brand name and brand mission closely followed in third and fourth place, respectively. Consumers today must feel a connection to brands that goes beyond cost and easy availability to drive true loyalty.

Younger buyers are more eco-aware 

While Gen Z is still a rising economic force, this generation is far more aware of the environmental effects of their purchasing decisions than their elders. The survey showed that Gen Z ranks ethical business/manufacturing as one of its top factors when purchasing, while the general public is more concerned about product price and availability. Yet, the general public is more likely to return to a brand based on the quality of the product, rather than sustainable practices. Additionally, more than 50 percent of Gen Z would be willing to pay more for a sustainable product, slightly higher than expressed by the general population (47.3%). 

Sustainable apparel is only starting to become a priority  

While recycling paper goods and plastics have risen in popularity since introduced in the 1970s, the EPA estimates that the average American throws away 81 pounds of clothing every year. The CGS survey found that only one-quarter of consumers care about sustainable apparel and footwear items, while almost half (42.5 percent) are concerned about eco-friendly paper goods. As fast fashion gains popularity, businesses and consumers need to be educated on eco-friendly apparel business practices to minimize apparel waste.

“Today’s buyers are driven by more than price – they’re looking for brands that align with their own values and needs,” said Paul Magel, President, Business Applications division, CGS. “To create a loyal customer base, brands must be transparent about the materials and development behind their products. Our BlueCherry® software helps brands meet these demands and deliver on the promise of sustainability and transparency.”

To view the full findings, see infographic.