How Manufacturers Can Market Sustainability

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Which industries are the most environmentally and socially responsible? According to the sixth annual Sense and Sustainability study by G&S Business Communications, Americans believe that agriculture is our most sustainable industry. The survey’s respondents also reported that, of 11 major industries, manufacturing is perceived as the least sustainable or “green.” G&S commissioned the survey of 2,055 adults in April 2015, and the data was collected on-line by Harris Poll from a representative sample of the U.S. population.
Many American manufacturers are excited about the future, but problems of perception continue to affect the industry. For example, the belief that all manufacturing jobs are dirty, dull, boring, and unstable prevents some U.S. adults – and their children – from even considering manufacturing careers. Jobs go unfilled because of a lack of qualified applicants, but why would potential talent opt for industrial education when the perceived benefits don’t outweigh the actual costs?
Manufacturers who dismiss the Sense and Sustainability study may do so at their own risk. According to the G&S survey, 62% of U.S. adults say that climate change is an issue that influences which brands they choose to support. For companies that make consumer products then, “going green” could make good business sense. Yet the G&S survey’s data isn’t so simple. Nearly 20% of millennial adults are disinterested in sustainability, and 40% of respondents question their own practical understanding of science.
How should manufacturers describe their sustainability initiatives then? Attempting to portray these efforts as “cool or hip” may not matter to the young, and adults who aren’t techies may tune-out more in-depth explanations. What’s likely to work then? According to the G&S survey, 81% of respondents believe that businesses are likely to address sustainability issues only where there is a related economic impact. In other words, consumers believe companies who can prove that sustainability makes financial sense.
Is your New York State manufacturing company serious about sustainability? How do consumers perceive your commitment? And will the G&S Sense and Sustainability report affect how you describe these efforts to a skeptical – even cynical – public?
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