This holiday, consumers want to shop at sustainable brands they can trust

Trust is often synonymous with health and safety for consumers in the wake of a global pandemic that upended their lives and necessitated new choices. Notably, consumer-facing companies are among the most trusted of all industries: 80% of consumers told us they trust consumer markets (CM) companies the same or more now than pre-pandemic.

For holiday shopping, a remarkable 93% told us trust is top of mind, similar to last year’s 92% and a striking increase over the 70% we’ve recorded in the years prior to the pandemic. Ultimately, consumers want to connect with — and buy from — relatable brands that reflect their own values of sustainability and purpose.

Trust is multidimensional, with ESG at the forefront

A variety of factors can influence how much a consumer trusts a company; however, a company’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives play a central role in building consumer trust. Consumers have told us repeatedly over the years that they want to know the ESG stories of the brands they support.

A robust ESG strategy is an opportunity to help showcase your brand beyond the compliance required by the Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposed climate-disclosure rules. Crafting your ESG story with forethought can transform your business when the entire organization participates.

You should have clarity about what’s at stake. What should be reported? And when? Organize around strategic ESG priorities and provide the skills, resources and data to help drive employee adoption of ESG companywide. Only then can you tell a compelling ESG story.

Building and communicating trust

Business leaders may not have the most realistic picture of trust. While 87% believe consumers highly trust their company, only 30% of consumers say they do. Consumers expect trust to be a business priority: 50% said companies have a responsibility to build trust.

Consumers told us accountability and clear communication are the paramount drivers of trust. Almost half (49%) of consumers have started buying or increased their level of buying from a company because they trust it, while 33% have paid a premium for trusted products and services. Conversely, 44% have stopped buying from a company due to lack of trust.

How do holiday shoppers decide which brands and retailers to trust on ESG issues? More than 75% seek referrals from a variety of sources. For younger consumers (ages 17-40), social media trumps all other sources. In fact, they are three times as likely to check social media as consumers age 56 and over. The message for brands? Communicate your ESG message clearly, consistently and frequently.

Trust earned is trust multiplied

PwC analysis has found that almost 90% of consumers said that when a company earns their trust, it also earns a recommendation to friends and family. More than traditional forms of advertising, those word-of-mouth recommendations from social circles are invaluable for brands.

So when consumers provide feedback, companies are well advised to listen. Ongoing two-way dialogue can cement relationships with consumers who are not only connecting with your company, but also keeping you updated on what matters most to them.

Contact us

Barbra Bukovac

Barbra Bukovac

Vice Chair, Consumer Markets, PwC US

Kelly Pedersen

Kelly Pedersen

Retail Leader, PwC US

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