The Nielsen Company just published their every-other-year sustainability study, “Sustainable Efforts & Environmental Concerns Around the World.” Their findings confirm an intuitive, human truth:
If it’s in my face, or an inescapable threat, I’ll be concerned about it.
So this is where any sustainability manager should start as you think about how to update your messaging for different countries. Ask yourself, “what’s right in their faces? What poses a threat to their daily existence?” and your country-by-country messaging should flow from that.
Case in point: Nielsen found that people living in coastal countries (read: small countries that are surrounded by water) are way more concerned about global warming than those who aren’t. In other words, if you live in America’s heartland, you’re not too concerned about the ocean levels rising… unless you have family living on the Florida coast. If you’re living on an island, a rising ocean is an immediate threat to your existence. So you’re way more motivated to buy a product where there’s a story about how the product or its manufacturing process will stop global warming. In middle-America, not so much.
(By the way, this rule of thumb did not hold true for New Zealanders, which is a bit befuddling. You would think folks who live in a country where you can stand on a high point and look in either direction and see a coast would be worried about rising ocean levels via global warming…)
Folks in countries with water shortages are worried about, um, water shortages. Folks in countries with obvious water pollution? Right, worried about water pollution.
So what are Americans concerned about? What’s the overarching, immediate threat to our way of life? The economy. And the feeling that flows from that concern is one of disgust over greed/wastefulness. This disgusted feeling has permeated our collective consciousness in such a way that we currently dislike wasted energy and excess packaging. Not that we’re always willing to do something about it, mind you. But when it comes to messaging, your sustainability messaging in America needs to revolve around the responsible/no-waste use of materials and resources (and that needs to be demonstrated in your packaging…in a way that doesn’t compromise performance). By the way, “responsible use of resources,” also includes making and growing your products/materials in America. “Locally made” pops up high in our studies and the Nielsen study as a believable, motivating message for Americans.
In Latin America, your messaging needs to revolve around your efforts to stop practices that create climate change and/or your efforts to create clean drinking water. And in Asia, your messaging needs to revolve around your efforts to curb pollution (both water and air). Perhaps “responsible manufacturing” works as an umbrella globally, but the message then needs to be localized to play to what the immediate concerns are.
One other human truth/global reality: consumers everywhere want companies to have environmental programs, and very few are willing to pay a price premium for them.