Sustainability drives sales

Sustainability generates up to 13 per cent of sales in terms of explanatory content. This is confirmed by a new study conducted by Serviceplan Corporate Reputation communication agency in conjunction with Biesalski & Company management consultancy. Pro Carton spoke with Serviceplan’s Joachim Schöpfer on the importance of packaging.

More than 8,100 buyers and customers from 104 companies spanning 16 industry sectors were surveyed for the study. The objective was to show how brands can increase their value through sustainability by adding a visible contribution to meeting idealistic needs – in other words, in the way they are perceived by customers.

Reputation makes the difference
“In our study we were able to confirm that reputation is a decisive factor in saturated and undifferentiating markets”, explains Serviceplan’s Joachim Schöpfer. “If product offerings become more similar and interchangeable, then it is reputation which takes on the added value role of a brand: it provides orientation and creates trust.“

Quantification of the financial effect of sustainability is based on the principle of comparing the perceived sustainability of a company and the buying behaviour from a consumer’s standpoint. This provides an answer to the question: can greater willingness to buy or greater buying intensity related to the offers of a company be explained by consumers perceiving the company as being more “sustainability-oriented”?



© 2016 Serviceplan / Biesalski & Company


More sales through sustainability
Alexander Biesalski: “The study shows that a sustainability image is already significantly adding to sales in numerous business sectors and companies. But it also shows that there is still considerable catching-up to do and that the full potential has by no means been reached.”

A major insight of the study is that sales generated through sustainability are always additive. Positively perceived sustainability is therefore not achieved at the expense of something else, but always creates additional sales. And this is what makes this differentiating factor highly interesting.

Credibility counts
The study also determines in great detail what consumers understand by the term sustainability. Using factor analysis, the respondents’ statements were clustered around topics. The result of the graph is therefore more of a “Sustainability map” in the consumers’ heads than merely a list of items asked.

It was also shown that the threshold for successful sustainability marketing is relatively low. Consumers do not expect the perfect sustainable brand or the perfect sustainable company. However, it must be made clear that the company is on the right track and this needs to be communicated credibly.

The role of packaging
This also includes harmonious packaging. “In my opinion, packaging plays a major role, but this function needs to be communicated”, says Joachim Schöpfer. “With one of our customers we were able to see how their packaging was perceived as being considerably better than before as a result of communication.”

Packaging is a very critical topic as it needs to be disposed of sooner or later. “In the customer’s perception, green packaging is always perceived as being compostable. And cartonboard, due to its natural raw material, is the material which most likely meets this perception. If something can be returned into a natural cycle, then this fosters a better feeling.”

Conclusion: if customers are informed appropriately about progress – which materials are used and why, as well as how much more environment-friendly packaging has become – then this makes for a very effective way of distinguishing oneself via the brand. “Concrete competitive advantages versus the competition are possible here. In many sectors, the enormous possibilities of packaging and corresponding communication have not yet been recognised. It would certainly pay to think about the role of packaging within the overall concept.“

Interview: Joachim Schöpfer, Serviceplan
Study: www.serviceplan.com/de/presse-detail/sustainability-value-score.html

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