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Consumers do not pay premium for sustainability: Paru Minocha, Kantar

Kantar recently released its preliminary findings from a new study exploring what sustainability means to Indian consumers. Kantar’s Asia Sustainability Foundational Study interviewed almost 10,000 consumers across nine countries in the region, including India, to understand their concerns and priorities. As per the study, the top 5 sustainability concerns of Indian consumers include:

  • Water pollution
  • Poverty and hunger
  • Deforestation
  • Lack of access to healthcare and vaccinations
  • Air pollution

Around 48% of the consumers in India are active and engaged on sustainability issues. This group is more conscious of the impact of their own choices. 77% said that they are prepared to invest time and money in companies that try to do good. But intent is not always translating into action; 84% of consumers still prioritise saving money over saving the planet, when it comes to their real-world actions.

In an exclusive interview with Adgully, Paru Minocha, Managing Director, South Asia, Insights Division, Kantar, highlights the pertinent findings from the inaugural Sustainability survey, role of Kantar in the new normal, identifying the concerns of our society, the role that brands can play in shaping the future and a lot more.

What have been the most pertinent findings from Kantar’s inaugural Sustainability report in India?

The most important thing is that there is already a very high sensitisation that the consumers have towards sustainability. They are aware of it, they are sensitive about it as well as conscious about the same, which is the first building block. The other thing was that while they vary in confidence, they do need a nudge to make a change, because the intent in the action is the value gap. There are different reasons for it that include the availability of sustainability, lack of messaging about it, and 63% of consumers are saying that they don’t know what changes they could make. 

Kantar rolled out its Sustainable Transformation Practice last year. What have been some of the key learnings and experiences so far?

The critical thing since the launch of Sustainable Transformation Practice is that it was a very important thing to bring to the table, we know consumers were very conscious about it, we know that clients were moving in that direction. But even if you look at our own expertise, we are experts of humans and this is not about consumer speaking but is about people speaking. It is really what is out there which is human understanding and taking that into account and linking it to the brand. I think it is quite meaningful for us, because we can be that bridge between what consumers want and what brands can give them. 

What role can brands play in shaping the future and supporting positive change, especially in a country like India?

Brands have all these pieces. The role of a brand is to make change happen, pull consumers into certain behavioral changes because consumers don’t tell us what they really want as they themselves are not aware about that fact. They have unresolved tensions which many brands leverage and that’s when the magic happens. So, if we look at certain examples, the ‘Complete Man’ campaign that came from Raymonds completely changed the gender for us to use it in advertising and is thus, known as the turning point in the advertising sector. It was a very different portrayal of gender that they came up with. The next was Vicks’ advertisement that inclusion would be right in the center and the presence of LGBTQ in the campaign touched many hearts around the world. So, brands have always played this role of pioneering the social changes and they do have an important role to play even today. 

How has the pandemic pushed sustainability up consumers’ agenda? What are the implications of this for brands?

The change is coming. It would have come sooner or later, but what COVID-19 has done is that it has brought the global aspect totally together. It has given a different aspect to the definition of community, where everyone has come together and influenced each other by also keeping an eye on what’s happening in other parts of the world. The second big change for India is, there is a growing realisation that if we take care of ourselves and our families in our own way, then we can keep ourselves safe. The pandemic has given a true sense of community because we are not isolated. What I do is what the next person knows and the chain continues. We really need this cohesive joining of hands to make a change happen. 

Could you give us an idea of the kind of costs/ budgetary allocations that it will entail for brands to factor in Sustainability concerns?

Costs/ budgets will have to be at the center, to be activated and to get done. There are different ways of doing it. The company will have to see what change they have to make, because it may or may not allow you a premium; actually consumers do not pay premium for sustainability. This won’t be the reason for the focus that the consumers will buy you, but they could reject you if you are not responsible. The focus of brands should be to search the reason behind the value of rejection and make the changes accordingly. 

What should be the key components of a Sustainable Transformation Framework that brands can’t ignore?

The questions for brands should be where is my right to play? What could consumers expect from me? What are they demanding? This differs by categories. If I am in one category, I can’t hit the protein category and do a good job with it. Maybe it’s due to credibility issues. In a study we had carried out, we had looked at 31 categories and observed different concerns that consumers have about event specific associations with different categories. So, there are some defining changes that brands need to deliver on these hygiene factors.

It is also about the brands understanding where to put sustainability as a harder communication. You are embedded behind employees in the organisation, because it’s not a sideline thing. You need your own employer to rally behind that change. You need to ask yourself whether you are headed in the right direction. And you need to know what is the best part that you are doing on the ground. 

How do you view a sustainable economic recovery in a post-pandemic world and what can be Kantar’s role in the new normal?

The economic recovery could happen as the cycle of change is going to take place, but what is important is to understand ‘Will I be the person who is going to be sustainable for a longer term?’ The more responsible we are, the more we will be able to get better in terms of sustainability. Consumer consciousness in the global world has become much smaller. Even governments are getting into this and are pushing us to develop sustainability efforts for a longer period of time. There is going to be consumer demand, capital demand and companies are going to be in the middle of it.

The role of Kantar here is really going to be the link between consumers’ articulated and unarticulated needs and sustainability. Being able to understand brands and what actions will motivate the consumers to change. How can we drive that change? That is the biggest challenge to accept and do it. If the consumer doesn’t find that motivating enough to change, then this won’t work further. I think our journey today in this picture is wide and great and that is where I see us going by balancing both consumers and the brands.

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