Nursery Blog



The Nursery team have been pondering and researching issues around sustainability for brands over recent months. It is a hot topic and one that is growing in importance and shows no signs of dissipating. Fuelled by curiosity and a sense that this issue is one that touches most of the brands we help to grow, we undertook a three-stage research survey in which we:

  • Explored the available research into sustainability to identify the gaps
  • Developed and conducted a UK wide online survey of 1000 people
  • Identified some key take outs for all brands

And we wanted to share what we found out over a series of blog papers – particularly highlighting the gap between what consumers want and what brands offer. Enjoy.

State of Play

In years gone by, sustainability, or social responsibility as it was once known, was perceived at its best to be a corporate box-ticking exercise or, at its worst, a one-off action of good will, designed to distract from less socially minded actions and decisions being made elsewhere.

But times are changing!

The UK government made history on 3rd May 2019, passing a motion to declare an environment and climate change emergency.

Pro-active brands have recognised the opportunity which engaged consumers provide.

Global, mainstream FMCG organisations are showing that it’s possible to strive for better, make changes and still make money!

For the less engaged amongst us, you’d be forgiven for thinking that sustainability is nothing more than a green movement designed to evoke changes to support our ever fragile environment.

However, as with most things there is more to sustainability than meets the eye.

It’s a multifaceted, vague and sometimes paradoxical concept. The definition that works for us is:

The process to maintain a balanced environment, in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development and institutional change are all in harmony to meet current and future human needs and aspirations

In other words…

Sustainability is acting to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations 

What is not always appreciated is that it is not just about the environment but there are three critical strands to it:

But what do people know or care about sustainability issues?

Sustainability is no longer seen as a ‘nice to have’, it is expected by consumers and has proven benefits for businesses. Over half of consumers believe brands actually have a more important role than our governments to create a better future – consumers are looking to brands to show them the way forward.

The most important figure to date comes from the Meaningful Brands Survey (2019) which showed that consumers feel 77% of brands could disappear entirely without them noticing. Brands need to make their mark on consumers to reverse this. Emotion is key to brand salience and sustainability is an important lever to pull to achieve this – shopping sustainably helps consumers feel good about brands (and themselves)

It’s not just good for consumers though, research by Unilever (2017) suggests the untapped opportunity in the sustainability market equates to £817bn given that the size of the marketing for sustainable goods is £2.1tr. So why aren't more businesses talking about sustainability?

Read part two of our sustainability blog series here

David Alterman


The Nursery Research & Planning


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